Residents of long-term care homes (LTCH) often experience unnecessary and non-beneficial hospitalizations and interventions near the end-of-life. Advance care directives aim to ensure that end-of-life care respects resident needs and wishes.
In this retrospective cohort study, we used multistate models to examine the health trajectories associated with Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) and Do-Not-Hospitalize (DNH) directives of residents admitted to LTCH in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, Canada. We adjusted for baseline frailty-related health instability. We considered three possible end states: change in health, hospitalization, or death. For measurements, we used standardized RAI-MDS 2.0 LTCH assessments linked to hospital records from 2010 to 2015.
We report on 123,003 LTCH residents. The prevalence of DNR and DNH directives was 71 and 26% respectively. Both directives were associated with increased odds of transitioning to a state of greater health instability and death, and decreased odds of hospitalization. The odds of hospitalization in the presence of a DNH directive were lowered, but not eliminated, with odds of 0.67 (95% confidence interval 0.65–0.69), 0.63 (0.61–0.65), and 0.47 (0.43–0.52) for residents with low, moderate and high health instability, respectively.
Even though both DNR and DNH orders are associated with serious health outcomes, DNH directives were not frequently used and often overturned. We suggest that policies recommending DNH directives be re-evaluated, with greater emphasis on advance care planning that better reflects resident values and wishes.