Elderly in Europe facing a "crisis" in end-of-life care

Michael Cook
22 Sep 2012
Reproduced with Permission

European Union countries are not prepared for the exploding burden of end-of-life care, according to an article in the journal British Medical Journal Supportive and Palliative Care. Fewer people are dying suddenly. Instead, they are dying older and slowly of chronic disease. More hospices, care homes and other end-of-life facilities are needed to help cope with growing numbers of slow deaths, specialists told the London Telegraph. "Dying of cancer and chronic diseases involves a considerable burden on the European society," say the authors of the journal article.

Dr Martin Vernon, of the British Geriatrics Society, says that elderly people suffering from other diseases, particularly dementia, need better care than they are now getting.

"Right now we are looking at rises in demand resulting from all sorts of long term conditions, not just cancer. We are talking about heart failure, respiratory diseases and particularly dementia."

"Improvements in treatment of dementia over the last decade have improved prognosis. But that means there needs to be an increase in care and support, both for those living at home, and for those in the last years of life, in formalised care settings."

Many nursing home are "not geared up for modern palliative care", he said. The proportion of over-85s will more than double by 2030, which means that there will also be far more people with disabilities.