Preferences for place of care and place of death: What, how, when and who to ask?

As healthcare systems worldwide are confronted with increasing numbers of ageing and terminally ill patients, the topic of where people want to spend their last days has received considerable attention. However, the strategies that researchers and clinicians use to capture these end-of-life views vary greatly in four key questions. These include: what, how, when and who to ask about location preferences. We will argue that how researchers and clinicians choose to answer these questions directly influences their findings. Based on these considerations, we will highlight ways to improve future palliative care and empirical end-of-life studies by addressing the precision, methods, timing and sources of preference assessments. Only when we are able to accurately identify where people want to spend their last days, can we begin to meet the needs of patients as they approach the final stage of their lives.