OBJECTIVE: To identify factors related to decisional conflict among surrogate decision makers for home medical care (HMC) patients.
DESIGN: Prospective Cohort Study.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: For older patients receiving HMC from four different primary care clinics in Japan from January 2016 to June 2017, we studied the family member with the main potential for surrogate decision making.
MEASUREMENTS: At the baseline, surrogates filled out a baseline questionnaire on their characteristics and decision readiness, while the attending doctors provided information about the patients' characteristics. Patient-and-surrogate pairs were tracked for up to six months after the baseline or for three months in the case of death, hospitalization, or admittance to a nursing home. After this tracking, surrogates filled out a follow-up questionnaire on their decision-making experiences, including decisional conflict.
RESULTS: Of the original 159 patient-and-surrogate pairs, 121 (76.1%) responded to the follow-up questionnaire. During the follow-up period, 32 patients (26.4% of the patients followed up) died and 69 (57.0%) experienced decision making. Among surrogates who made decisions, the mean score of decisional conflict was 36.2 (standard deviation 14.7), and 43.5% were above the threshold relating to decision delay. Anticipatory guidance and discussion on the patient's care goals at the beginning of HMC were the two variables significantly associated with less decisional conflict of surrogates.
CONCLUSIONS: Families felt less conflict with surrogate decision making if they had participated in previous discussions with doctors regarding the patients' care goals. Early-stage anticipatory guidance and discussion are a good opportunity for families to prepare for surrogate decision making.
BACKGROUND: Home medical care (HMC) patients and their families are expected to prepare for end-of-life decision making.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated the decision readiness of HMC patients and their family surrogates.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: We collected data from dyads, consisting of a HMC patient aged 65 years or older and a family member of the patient, recruited at four Japanese primary care clinics from January 2016 to November 2016.
MEASUREMENTS: Surrogates completed a questionnaire on their sociodemographic and health status and their decision readiness. Primary HMC physicians provided information on their patients.
RESULTS: A total of 337 dyads were screened, and 159 were included. The mean age of patients and surrogates was 86 and 64 years, respectively, and 29% of patients were cognitively impaired. Only 1.9% of the patients left written advance directives, and 32% were entrusting all decision making to the doctor or their families. Regarding the surrogate's preferred decision-making role, 21.9% of the surrogates preferred doctors to assume decision-making responsibility. A multivariate analysis revealed that no discussion of care goals (odds ratio [OR] 2.88, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02-8.17) and patients having expressed their wishes verbally, including entrusting decision making to others (OR 2.51, 95% CI 1.07-5.89), were associated with surrogates' preference for doctors to have decision-making responsibility.
CONCLUSIONS: Many patients preferred to entrust the end-of-life decisions to others rather than utilizing advance directives, which made surrogates more dependent on doctors for decision making. Qualified advance care planning is required to promote familial discussion and surrogates' decision readiness.