Brief Report| Volume 60, ISSUE 3, P595-601.e3, September 2020

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Understanding End-of-Life Preferences: Predicting Life-Prolonging Treatment Preferences Among Community-Dwelling Older Americans



      To determine how demographic, socioeconomic, health, and psychosocial factors predict preferences to accept life-prolonging treatments (LPTs) at the end of life (EOL).


      This is a retrospective cohort study of a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older Americans (N = 1648). Acceptance of LPT was defined as wanting to receive all LPTs in the hypothetical event of severe disability or severe chronic pain at the EOL. Participants with a durable power of attorney, living will, or who discussed EOL with family were determined to have expressed their EOL preferences. The primary analysis used survey-weighted logistic regression to measure the association between older adult characteristics and acceptance of LPT. Secondarily, the associations between LPT preferences and health outcomes were measured using regression models.


      Approximately 31% of older adults would accept LPT. Nonwhite race/ethnicity (odds ratio [OR] 0.54; 95% CI 0.41, 0.70; white vs. nonwhite), self-realization (OR 1.34; 95% CI 1.01, 1.79), attendance of religious services (OR 1.44; 95% CI 1.07, 1.94), and expression of preferences (OR 0.54; 95% CI 0.40, 0.72) were associated with acceptance of LPT. LPT preferences were not independently associated with mortality or disability.


      Approximately one-third of older Americans would accept LPT in the setting of severe disability or severe chronic pain at the EOL. Adults who discussed their EOL preferences were more likely to reject LPT. Conversely, minorities were more likely to accept LPT. Sociodemographics, physical capacity, and health status were poor predictors of acceptance of LPT. A better understanding of the complexities of LPT preferences is important to ensuring patient-centered care.

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