Monday, 11 July 2011

New findings on care home residents’ views on dying

A National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) study which interviewed care home residents over a year to examine how their views and expectations about living and dying and how their views were affected by their experience in the care home has been carried out by Professor Claire Goodman at the University of Hertfordshire.

In a paper entitled An uncertain future: The unchanging views of care home residents about living and dying, which has just been  published online in Palliative Medicine, researchers at the University of Hertfordshire and co-authors from the University of Cambridge, Lancaster University, Surrey , University College London King’s College London, have highlighted the value of ongoing discussions with older care home residents to help staff prioritise and address what is important to the older person.

Contrary to popular belief, older people were no more likely to want to think about advance care plans or advance directives (living wills) just because they were in the last years of their life. Noticing the deaths of other residents did not shape how residents talked about their own mortality and their priorities for end-of-life care. Equally, residents’ views about dying did not change over time and were not dissimilar to the views of the wider population.

The study recruited six care homes and the research aimed to be as inclusive as possible and invited all residents to take part in the study.

One hundred and twenty one residents took part in the study and of these, sixty-three residents were interviewed three times over 2008-2009. The study showed the value of discussions with residents that foster opportunities to talk about dying as part of ongoing conversations. It also suggests that providing opportunities for residents and their families to talk about the future as early as possible, particularly for those with a diagnosis of dementia, may be important.

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