Seniors in care homes not actively looking forward to death

The study spoke with patients from care homes in St Gallen, Vaud, and Ticino. Keystone

Research carried out in Swiss care homes has shed light on the previously overlooked topic of seniors’ attitudes towards death. The results show that over four-fifths maintain a desire to go on living.

This content was published on August 30, 2018 - 11:53

The national research project, carried out by the University Hospitals Geneva, aimed to better understand if, why, and in what form the residents of care homes in Switzerland desire to end their days.

It comes in the context of ongoing debates in Switzerland about the practical and moral use of assisted suicide, as well as ever-lengthening life expectancies (at 83.3 years, Switzerland has the second-longest in the world after Japan, according to the WHO).

+ Read more about assisted suicide in Switzerland

Challenging common prejudices and preconceptions,, the results of the study were a “surprise,” according to one of the co-authors.

“In contrast with other studies of seniors in hospital or in their homes, residents of care homes consider themselves in good health, well-supported by staff, and do not feel like a burden on their loved ones,” Dr Eve Rubli Truchard told Swiss public television, RTS.

Of the 380 care home subjects interviewed, 84% said that they wished to keep living, while the remaining 16% revealed a desire to die, but of natural causes. Just one respondent admitted to wishing to speed up the process.

As for psychological attitudes towards the inevitable, just 4% said that they were neither ready for death nor accepting of it; 50% said that they were not ready, but that they could accept it.

One of the key takeaways from the study, according to the authors, was that the topic of death was not a taboo in the homes visited. The researchers therefore recommended continued dialogue on the subject, whether with loved ones or with health professionals.

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