Study: End-of-life care plans ease relatives' depression, stress

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Relatives of elderly patients nearing the end of life experience less stress and depression if their loved one has made his or her end-of-life care wishes known, a new study finds.

Australian researchers followed 309 patients aged 80 and older as they were admitted to the hospital between 2007 and 2008. Roughly half of those—154 patients—had advanced care planning. Of the 56 patients who died during the study, end-of-life wishes were followed 86% of the time for those who had gone through advanced care planning, but only 30% of the time for other patients, according to the study.

Family members of the deceased patients reported significantly less stress and depression if end-of-life wish documentation, such as a living will, was used to plan the care, according to the researchers at Austin Health in Heidelberg, Australia. The report appears in the March 24 online edition of BMJ.