Background Lack of public knowledge of palliative care may be a barrier to timely use of palliative care and hinder engagement in advance care planning (ACP). This study aimed to determine self-reported and actual knowledge of palliative care and explore factors that contribute to knowledge of palliative care among older people.
Methods A cross-sectional study consisted of 1242 older persons (≥ 65 years; response 93.2%) from a representative sample of the Dutch population. Older persons were asked four statements about palliative care (true/false/don’t know). Descriptive statistics and logistic regression analyses were done.
Results The majority of Dutch older people had heard of the term palliative care (90.1%), and 47.1% reported to know what palliative care means. Most older people knew that palliative care is not only for people with cancer (73.9%) nor only provided in a hospice facility (60.6%). A minority knew that palliative care can be provided alongside life-prolonging treatment (29.8%) and that palliative care is not only for people who have a few weeks left to live (23.5%). Higher education level (OR ranging from 1.34 to 4.67 for the four statements), personal experience with palliative care (ORs from 1.35 to 2.44), being female (ORs from 1.00 to 1.88), and higher income (ORs from 0.95 to 1.81) were positively associated with knowledge about palliative care, while increasing age (ORs from 0.51 to 0.68) was negatively associated.
Conclusions Knowledge of palliative care is limited, stressing the need for population-wide interventions, such as information meetings. During such meetings, attention should especially be paid to timely utilization of palliative care. This might stimulate engagement in ACP and raise public knowledge of (im)possibilities of palliative care.
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