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Keywords:

  • end-of-life care;
  • nursing homes;
  • assisted living;
  • family satisfaction;
  • quality of care

Objectives: To define the current state of end-of-life care in residential care/assisted living (RC/AL) facilities and nursing homes (NHs) and to compare these two types of care settings.

Design: Interviews of staff and family informants about deaths that occurred during a longitudinal study.

Setting: Fifty-five RC/AL facilities and 26 NHs in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Participants: Two hundred twenty-four staff and family informants that best knew the 73 RC/AL residents and 72 NH residents who died in or within 3 days after discharge from a study facility.

Measurements: Telephone interviews conducted with the facility staff member who knew the decedent best and the family member who was most involved in care during the last month of life of the decedent. Data were collected on circumstances of death, perceptions of dying process, cause of death, care during the last month of life, mood, discomfort, and family satisfaction.

Results: Most decedents died in the facility where they had resided, and more than half of the subjects were alone when they died. Greater proportions of staff and family in the NHs knew that the resident's death was only days or weeks away. Both RC/AL and NH residents experienced few highly negative moods, and even on their most uncom-fortable day, the overall discomfort was low for residents in both facility types. Summary ratings of family satisfaction were significantly higher for the RC/AL (32.1) than the NH (41.2) group (P=.016).

Conclusion: These data suggest that end-of-life care in RC/AL settings appears similar in process and outcomes to that provided in NHs. Thus, aging and dying-in-place can effectively occur in RC/AL.