American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

Advance Directives in Hospice Healthcare Providers: A Clinical Challenge

elder woman sick in bed with husband looking on

On a daily basis, healthcare providers, especially those dealing with terminally ill patients, such as hospice workers, witness how advance directives help ensure the wishes of patients. They also witness the deleterious consequences when patients fail to document the care they desire at their end of life. To the best of our knowledge there are no data concerning the prevalence of advance directives among hospice healthcare providers. We therefore explored the prevalence and factors influencing completion rates in a survey of hospice healthcare providers.

Methods

Surveys that included 32 items to explore completion rates, as well as barriers, knowledge, and demographics, were e-mailed to 2097 healthcare providers, including employees and volunteers, at a nonprofit hospice.

Results

Of 890 respondents, 44% reported having completed an advance directive. Ethnicity, age, relationship status, and perceived knowledge were all significant factors influencing the completion rates, whereas years of experience or working directly with patients had no effect. Procrastination, fear of the subject, and costs were common reasons reported as barriers. Upon completion of the survey, 43% said they will now complete an advance directive, and 45% will talk to patients and families about their wishes.

Conclusion

The majority of hospice healthcare providers have not completed an advance directive. These results are very similar to those for other healthcare providers treating patients with terminal diseases, specifically oncologists. Because, at completion, 43% said that they would now complete an advance directive, such a survey of healthcare providers may help increase completion rates.

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-George R. Luck, MD, FAAHPM, Terry Eggenberger, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNL, CNE, David Newman, PhD, Jacqueline Cortizo, MD, Derek C. Blankenship, MD, Charles H. Hennekens, MD, DrPH

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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