“My attitude is that [nursing homes] are waiting rooms. You go there to wait to die. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes it doesn’t. But essentially it’s where you deposit people that you don’t want to care for at home or you can’t care for at home.”

That’s an observation from Jim*, a 66-year-old patient with lung cancer, who was to die less than three months after discussing his end-of-life wishes with us.

Many of us find it confronting to talk about death and dying. Picture: Getty Images
Like him, many terminally ill patients and their families we spoke to felt strongly about avoiding nursing homes at all costs. People there were described as “abandoned”, “drugged up” and even “locked up”.

Some even said they would rather die than go into a nursing home. However literally we take remarks like this, they illustrate the extremely poor reputation of these care settings.

It is important to realise that where we die matters. Just as our living environment influences our quality of life, so does our dying environment; affecting how we and our families experience death.

You can read more of these interviews with terminally ill patients and their families highlight the importance and complexities of discussions about place of care and place of death here.

By Dr Katrin Gerber, National Ageing Research Institute and Queensland University of Technology, Dr Barbara Hayes, Northern Health and Associate Professor Christina Bryant, University of Melbourne