OBJECTIVES: Advance care planning in young-onset dementia largely remains a blind spot within current literature. This study aimed to explore the engagement in and the conceptualization of advance care planning from the perspective of family caregivers of persons with young-onset dementia and to identify potential similarities and differences in this area between American and Belgian persons with young-onset dementia and their family caregivers.
DESIGN: An exploratory qualitative study.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: We purposively sampled adult family caregivers of persons with young-onset dementia; our respondents were 13 American and 15 Belgian caregivers with varying familial relationships to the patient.
METHODS: We conducted 28 semi-structured interviews, using the same interview guide for American and Belgian respondents. Verbatim transcripts were analysed through the method of constant comparative analysis.
RESULTS: Important similarities between American and Belgian respondents were restricted knowledge of advance care planning, limited communication about advance directives, and their recommendation for professionals to timely initiate advance care planning. Major differences were attention paid to those end-of-life decisions depicted in the legislature of their respective countries, American caregivers placed higher emphasis on financial planning than their Belgian peers, and, in the case of consulting professionals for advance directives, American caregivers turned to lawyers, whereas Belgian caregivers relied on physicians.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Specific nuances and challenges in terms of advance care planning in young-onset dementia arise from a particular societal and legal context on the one hand, and from patients' and caregivers' younger age on the other. Professionals' awareness of and responsiveness to these specificities could facilitate the advance care planning process. Based on our interpretation of results, several recommendations for practice and policy are made.
Background: The significance of advance care planning in dementia is widely acknowledged. Despite the suggestion that younger people with dementia and their family might have distinct needs and preferences in this area, studies on advance care planning in young-onset dementia are absent.
Aim: We aim to explore (1) whether family caregivers had already engaged in advance care planning with patients and/ or professionals and the accompanying reasons and (2) family caregivers' preferences for how to ideally engage in the process with patients, family and professionals.
Design: A qualitative study was conducted: we analysed semi-structured interviews (n = 15) through the method of constant comparative analysis.
Setting/participants: We included Flemish family caregivers of persons with young-onset dementia.
Results: Plans for the future typically concerned non-medical affairs. Participants' limited engagement in advance care planning was clarified through several reasons: not considering it useful, hindering patient behaviour, adopting a day-to-day attitude, caregivers emotionally protecting themselves and uncertainty about patients' cognitive competence. However, endorsement for advance care planning showed from respondent' preferences that it should be initiated timely, by a third party, and emphasize patients' remaining capacities. Finally, the need for information and high-quality care emerged.
onclusion: A gap of knowledge, of information and in care intertwiningly hinder advance care planning. In young-onset dementia, engaging in advance care planning is not an option equally accessible as not doing so. Policy makers, institutions and professionals could reflect on their responsibility in providing these patients and caregivers an actual choice to engage in advance care planning or not.