Locating care at the end of life: Burden, vulnerability, and the practical accomplishment of dying

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sociology of Health and Illness, 2016, 38 (3), pp. 479 - 492
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness. Home is frequently idealised as the preferred location for end-of-life care, while in-patient hospital care is viewed with suspicion and fear. Yet many people with a terminal illness spend their final days in some form of medicalised institutional setting, such as a specialist palliative care in-patient unit. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with in-patients at a specialist palliative care unit, we focus on their difficulties in finding a better place of care at the end of their life. We found that participants came to conceptualise home though a sense of bodily vulnerabilities and that they frequently understood institutional care to be more about protecting their family from the social, emotional and relational burdens of dying. For a significant number of participants the experience of dying came to be understood through what could be practically accomplished in different locales. The different locales were therefore framed around providing the best care for the patient and their family.
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