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User-Friendly Intervention Could Boost Advance Care Planning

In a large study, a diverse group of older adults reacts positively to easy-to-follow guidance  

Senior couple discuss website with doctor

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En español | A study has determined that easy-to-use basics on advance care planning can help bring about substantial interest in the process among a diverse spectrum of older adults as they plan their future medical care.

Results of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), were published online recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the study of about 1,000 older adults, divided roughly equally among English and Spanish speakers, researchers discovered that nearly all — more than 98 percent — became more engaged in advance care planning after exposure to a website that explained advance care in easy terms. The website also provided an example of an advance directive, used to help guide family members and health professionals on a course of action when a patient is no longer able to do so. Planning includes discussions with family and health professionals.

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Researchers said the results are significant, especially given that the participants represented a culturally diverse population.

Rebecca Sudore, M.D., professor of medicine at the UCSF Division of Geriatrics, said the findings are important because “advance care planning rates have been very low among Spanish-speaking and diverse populations."

Statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that about two-thirds of American adults have not even looked into advance care planning. The UCSF research team attributes the low figures to several factors, including a lack of training and time for clinicians, and, among patients, a feeling of intimidation or lack of preparedness when first introduced to material like advance directive forms.

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