End-of-life care planning and its implementation
End-of-life care planning is an opportunity for people to express how they want to spend the final stage of their lives by directing what type of medical treatment they wish or do not wish to receive. The completion of such planning is a way to exercise their autonomy, which is one of the fundamental ethical principles in medicine in the United States. Many older adults in the U.S., however, do not have such a plan or even discuss the topic with anyone. In order to understand the circumstances in which end-of-life planning is enacted, this study investigated two important research questions: (1) What are the sociodemographic and psychosocial factors that enhance or impede the completion of end-of-life planning? (2) How consistent is the content of a living will with the person's actual dying experience? These research questions were developed and examined as an application of expectancy theory, which explains the concepts of motivation and action. A series of logistic regression analyses were conducted. This study analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is a nationally representative sample of Americans over the age of 50. The analytic subsample included those who died between 2000 and 2010 (N = 6,668). The study found that persons who were older, who identified themselves as White, who had higher levels of income and education, and who were widowed or separated were more likely to be motivated to complete end-of-life planning. A higher level of sense of mastery was specifically relevant to documentation of living wills. On the other hand, a lower level of religiosity was specifically associated with having a durable power of attorney for health care. In addition, there was a clear connection between a request for palliative care and less troubling pain. Implications include conducting a community- or workplace-based public educational campaign, incorporating a culturally tailored approach for racial/ethnic minorities (e.g. faith-based interventions), using advance directives written in easy to understand language (e.g. Five Wishes), and funding Medicare provision for end-of-life care consultations between doctors and patients during annual physical exams.