If healthcare providers talk to older adults, with a chronic or terminal illness, about the expected course of an illness and life expectancy, then it may improve the quality of care they receive as they age, suggests a study.
This is according to a new research on advanced care planning - the technical term for having early conversations with the healthcare providers about care needs, preferences and expectations.
Addressing these and other important concerns remains the key to advance care planning, which has been shown to improve the quality of care we receive as we age.
The researchers examined how older adults with disabilities, later might react to learning their prognosis, and how they evaluated their own prognosis compared to 'official' estimates.
The team analysed 35 adults 70-years-old and older from four geriatrics clinics in the San Francisco Bay area.
All the participants required help with daily activities and they all participated in a 45-minute interview as a part of the study.
They asked the older adults questions about how they would want to receive information about their life expectancy.
For example, did they prefer hearing or reading news about their prognosis? Would they prefer receiving information about their prognosis while at home by themselves?
Additionally, the participants circled the shortest, longest, and the most likely number of years they thought they might live on a scale from 0 to 30 years.
They found that 16 participants (46 per cent) had life expectancy estimates that were within two years of the "most likely" estimate from a healthcare professional.
Almost 15 participants (43 per cent) over-estimated their own life expectancy by more than two years compared to the "most likely" estimate.
Overall, 30 participants (86 per cent) estimated their life expectancy in a way that at least overlapped with the 'official' estimated calculation.
They concluded that most older adults wanted a health care practitioner to be present when discussing life expectancy.
"Health care practitioners may offer to discuss life expectancy with their older, disabled patients and expect the patients to tie the information into their own life narratives," said the researchers.
The research appears in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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