Almost 8 in 10 Singaporeans wish to die at home, but only three in 10 do so

Only 27 per cent of Singaporeans died at home last year, though a new study found that 77 per cent  wish to do so. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JAMIE KOH
Only 27 per cent of Singaporeans died at home last year, though a new study found that 77 per cent  wish to do so. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Only 27 per cent of Singaporeans died at home last year, though a new study found that 77 per cent wish to do so.

The study, commissioned by Lien Foundation, polled more than 1,000 people here for their views towards death and dying. The results of the survey, conducted by research firm Blackbox Research late last year, were released on Tuesday.

The proportion of deaths at home were derived from figures from the Registry of Births and Deaths.

Experts say that not many Singaporeans are spending their last days at home, despite the national push to age in the community, because some health conditions may take unexpected turns and patients may need immediate treatment.

Others may fear caring for their loved ones at home as they do not have adequate family support.

Another reason, the experts added, could be the perceived high costs of palliative care, whether in a hospice or at home.

While the survey showed that three in four Singaporeans are open to receiving palliative care for themselves, more than half of the respondents think it is expensive. Medical costs top the list when those surveyed were asked what they most feared about dying.

Palliative care seeks to reduce the patient's suffering by alleviating pain and symptoms rather than focus on curing the seriously-ill person.

Currently, home palliative care is free and those who opt to live out their last days in hospices receive subsidies.

Dr Jeremy Lim, head of health and life sciences practice at consulting firm Oliver Wyman who was involved in drafting the report on the national strategy for palliative care in 2011, suggested providing free palliative care for all in the community.

This would minimise the number of patients seeking help in general hospitals, which have high running costs and high demand for beds and services, he said.

He added: "I believe there would be net savings. Enabling patients to be cared for at home and in the community- which is what they want - is less costly than hospitalisation. Hospital beds not filledwith palliative care patients can be used for other patients."

Lien Foundation's chief executive Lee Poh Wah said that more people will be able to die at home if the health-care system supports palliative care better.

"We will have a greater chance of being able to die at home - if our health-care system is strongly geared towards palliative care and it provides more professional and social support to meet patients' preferences," he said.