Death at Home Following a Targeted Advance-Care Planning Process at Home: The Kitchen Table Discussion


Address correspondence to Edward Ratner, MD, University of Minnesota Department of Family Practice, Mayo Mail Code 381, 420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether home health agency patients' preferences to die at home can be honored following a structured, professionally facilitated advance-care planning (ACP) process provided in the home.

DESIGN: A case series of patients who were identified by their home health agency nurses as having a life-limiting illness and then referred for social service assessment, followed for at least 6 months, with median follow-up of 191 days.

SETTING: A large, urban, home health agency owned by a not-for-profit integrated healthcare system.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty-four adult patients (median age 75, range 37–94) receiving home care services other than hospice.

INTERVENTION: Formally structured social work visits at patients' homes to discuss end-of-life issues, with communication of results to home health nurses and attending physicians. Social workers performed standard psychosocial assessments, obtained patient and family preferences regarding end-of-life care, and provided education about hospice services.

MEASUREMENTS: Acceptance of the ACP process, preferences for location of end-of-life care, location of care at the end of life, adequacy of timing of intervention as measured by length of life after ACP, and use of hospice services.

RESULTS: Eighty-three of 84 participants (99%) were willing to complete an ACP process in the home setting. Of the 54 patients expressing a clear preference for location of end-of-life care, 46 (82%) wanted this care to be at home. Thirty-nine (46%) of the participants died within 90 days of ACP; 58 (69%) died by the end of the study. Forty-three (75%) of these deaths occurred at home or in a hospice residence. Fifty-one (61%) patients used home, residential, or nursing home–based hospice services during the study.

CONCLUSION: In this series of seriously ill home health patients, most preferred to die at home and virtually all were willing to participate in a home-based ACP process. Facilitating ACP among such patients and their families was associated with end-of-life care at home. Use of hospice services was common following ACP in this population. J Am Geriatr Soc 49:778–781, 2001.