Refer a Patient

Patients with terminal cancer live longer with home care than hospital care

Fox 4 Kansas City


LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- If you had terminal cancer, would you rather spend your last days at home or in the hospital? Most of us would probably say at home. But many people are concerned that the care at home will be inferior and the patient will die sooner. New research provides some reassurance.

"How you do like my fingernails?" Treva Armstrong asked.

The vivid pink fingernails match Armstrong's personality.

"Somebody said why don't you have 'em paint your toenails? I said, well, nobody sees my toenails," Armstrong said.

She's one to talk more about toenails than about the end of life even though she's 101-years old and has advanced pancreatic cancer.

"It's one of those things that happens and what can you do about it?" she said.

In January, Armstrong began receiving care from Crossroads Hospice.

"It didn't look like we had more than two weeks," said her great-niece, Nancy O'Grady, who added, "She keeps popping back."

O'Grady and another great-niece, Laura Lenfers, are her primary caregivers. They say it's no mystery why she's still here. It's because she's at home.

"Well, this is home. You're just more satisfied at home than you are anywhere else," Armstrong said.

Researchers found cancer patients who'd been given just days or weeks lived longer with home-based care than those with the same prognosis who were in hospital-based care. It may be reassuring to patients and families who are concerned that the quality of home care will be inferior.

"That's where hospice comes in and teaches the family and friends how to care for those loved ones so they are able to stay at home," said Monica Outlaw of Crossroads Hospice.

Add to it the comfort, security and stability that patients can have in their own homes.

"I love my home," Armstrong said.

And you understand why Armstrong is still here.

"Still spunky, still stubborn and still has her wits. It means a lot, means a lot," O'Grady said.

In the study, those who'd been given days or weeks lived between four and seven days longer on average with home care compared to hospital care. For those given months to live, the difference was about three days. The study of 2,000 patients is in the journal Cancer.