A program that encourages nursing homes to adopt advance care planning support for residents with Alzheimer’s disease is expanding to nearly 200 facilities in the United States.

The National Institute on Aging announced this week a $3 million award to grow the Advance Care Specialist Program. Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University researchers led the pilot program

About 170 nursing facilities will be randomly assigned to either implement the program or continue with their normal procedure during the second phase.

Advance care planning calls on providers to discuss treatment preferences, goals and values with patients and their families, the researchers explained. The program helps train nursing facility staff members on how to educate other employees and implement procedures to support advance care planning for residents. 

The goal for the expansion is to find a practical approach to integrating the program into nursing home care and create a model that can be widely adopted for providers, Kathleen Unroe, MD, project co-leader and researcher scientist, said. 

“High-quality advance care planning is best practice in nursing homes. This is a pragmatic clinical trial – designed to be implemented in the ‘real world,’ working closely with nursing home partners,” Unroe told McKnight’s

She added that “nursing home residents deserve the opportunity to engage in robust advance care planning.”

“Advance care planning creates opportunities for residents and their families to reflect on their goals of care and preferences for medical treatments. Our clinical trial is testing a systematic approach to ACP, which includes identifying and training at least one ACP specialist in the facility. Training alone is not enough — we will support our facility partners in setting up systems to integrate this work into usual care processes in a systematic way,” Unroe said.