Place of death and end-of-life transitions experienced by very old people with differing cognitive status: retrospective analysis of a prospective population-based cohort aged 85 and over.

14 Jun 2019

BACKGROUND: Despite fast-growing 'older old' populations, 'place of care' trajectories for very old people approaching death with or without dementia are poorly described and understood. AIM: To explore end-of-life transitions of 'older old' people across the cognitive spectrum. DESIGN: Population-based prospective cohort (United Kingdom) followed to death. SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Mortality records linked to 283 Cambridge City over-75s Cohort participants' cognitive assessments <1 year before dying aged ≥ 85 years. RESULTS: Overall, 69% were community dwelling in the year before death; of those with severe cognitive impairment 39% were community dwelling. Only 6% subsequently changed their usual address. However, for 55% their usual address on death registration was not their place of death. Dying away from the 'usual address' was associated with cognition, overall fewer moving with increasing cognitive impairment - cognition intact 66%, mildly/moderately impaired 55% and severely impaired 42%, trend p = 0.003. This finding reflects transitions being far more common from the community than from institutions: 73% from the community and 28% from institutions did not die where last interviewed (p < 0.001). However, severely cognitively impaired people living in the community were the most likely group of all to move: 80% (68%-93%). Hospitals were the most common place of death except for the most cognitively impaired, who mostly died in care homes. CONCLUSION: Most very old community-dwelling individuals, especially the severely cognitively impaired, died away from home. Findings also suggest that long-term care may play a role in avoidance of end-of-life hospital admissions. These results provide important information for planning end-of-life services for older people across the cognitive spectrum, with implications for policies aimed at supporting home deaths. MESH TERMS: Cognitive impairment, Dementia, Aged, 80 and over, Aged, frail elderly, Patient Transfer, Residential characteristics, Homes for the aged, Nursing Homes, Delivery of Health Care, Terminal care Other key phrases: Older old, Oldest old, Place of death, Place of care, End-of-life care.