Going through serious illness can be a private time, so it’s not surprising that most Americans want to be at home rather than in a nursing home or other facility. When most people think of home, they imagine being surrounded by what they have built -- the familiarities of their bed, their room, their pictures, their food, and their loved ones. The physical and emotional comforts of home can foster a sense of accomplishment and safety.  


  1. Have the discussion early
  2. Be realistic about limitations
  3. State wishes clearly
  4. Agree on the decision to live at home
  5. Plan on nursing care or other support to be provided in the home

Many people wait too long to have a health care planning discussion with their family members. Loved ones can easily misinterpret the desire to live comfortably at home with a different intent if the conversation occurs during a crisis. Many times, an illness can even render a person unable to respond or communicate, and loved ones are forced to make difficult treatment or life decisions for that person without knowing their wishes. 

However, denial is a common and powerful way to cope when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious medical illness and is one of the biggest barriers to living at home. If a person or relatives struggle to accept the gravity of the illness, they are more likely to choose medical procedures that may not prolong life and increase the risk of complications and avoidable hospitalizations.

Once the decision is made to live at home, one must clearly discuss the decision with those involved in their lives and medical care. When the doctor understands their patient’s wishes, he or she can tailor the treatment plan, as well as offer personalized advice and useful resources. In addition to the doctor, health care planning facilitators, like those at Iris Plans, can also answer questions, discuss options, and even assemble the necessary documents to plan for living at home with a serious medical illness. Iris Plans offers trained professionals that will build a unique and supportive road map for families when staying home is a priority but the family doesn’t know how to make it a reality.

King’s College in London studied cancer patients living at home throughout all the care they received. Those patients and their family members lived better than patients who lived, and died, outside of their home. This research data shows that planning for living at home is vital and open discussions facilitate the implementation of necessary support services.

The old adage “Home, Sweet Home” holds a more powerful meaning when applied to serious medical illnesses. Iris Plans can guide you and your loves ones in a discussion about your wishes and help you to create your personalized map home.  


Gomes, B, Calanzani, N, Koffman, J, and Higginson, I. “Is dying in hospital better than home in incurable cancer and what factors influence this? A population-based study”. BMC Medicine 13:235 (2015). Web. 9 Oct 2015.