Background Advance Care Planning (ACP) may prepare relatives of frail older patients for future decision-making.
Objective To investigate (1) how bereaved relatives of frail older patients experience ACP conversations and (2) whether ACP has an effect on relatives’ preparation for decision-making and on their levels of anxiety and depression.
Design: Cluster randomised controlled trial.
Setting: Residential care homes in the Netherlands.
Subjects: Bereaved relatives of care home residents and community-dwelling frail older patients.
Methods We randomised 16 residential care homes to either the intervention group, where participants (frail older patients) were offered facilitated ACP, or the control group (n=201), where they received ‘care as usual’. If participants died, we approached relatives for an interview. We asked relatives who had attended ACP conversations for their experience with ACP (open-ended questions). Furthermore, we compared relatives’ preparation levels for decision-making and levels of anxiety and depression (HADS) between groups. This trial was registered (NTR4454).
Results We conducted interviews with 39/51 (76%) bereaved relatives (intervention group: n=20, control group: n=19). Relatives appreciated the ACP conversations. A few considered ACP redundant since they were already aware of the patient’s preferences. Nine of 10 relatives in the intervention group felt adequately prepared for decision-making as compared to five of 11 relatives in the control group (p=.03). Relatives’ levels of anxiety and depression did not differ significantly between groups.
Conclusions In our study, bereaved relatives of frail older patients appreciated ACP. ACP positively affected preparedness for decision-making. It did not significantly affect levels of anxiety or depression.
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