Frailty is the leading prognosticator for poor outcomes and palliative care among older adults. Delivery of negative prognostic information entails potentially difficult conversations about decline and death.
The study aims were to: 1) examine hospitalized older adults’ and family caregivers’ receptivity to general (vs. individualized) prognostic information about frailty, injury, and one-year outcomes; and 2) determine information needs based on prognostic information.
Provision of general prognostic information followed by semi-structured interview questions. We deductively analyzed qualitative data within the context of problematic integration theory.
An academic medical center in the Southeast region of the U.S.
Purposive sampling was utilized to obtain a distribution of patients across the frailty continuum (non-frail [N=10], pre-frail [N=9], frail [9=6]). Twenty-five older adults (≥ age 65) hospitalized for a primary injury (e.g. fall) and 15 family caregivers of hospitalized patients were enrolled.
Hospitalized older patients and family caregivers were shown prognostic information about one-year outcomes of injured older adults in the form of simple pictographs. Semi-structured interview questions were administered immediately afterwards. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Demographic and medical information data were used to contextualize the responses during analysis.
Overall, participants (patients [56%], caregivers [73%]) were open to receiving prognostic information. A small number of family caregivers (N=3) expressed reservations about the frankness of the information and suggested delivery through a softer approach or not at all. Qualitative data was coded using categories and constructs of problematic integration theory. Four codes (personalizing the evidence, vivid understanding, downhill spiral, realities of aging) reflected probabilistic and evaluative orientation categories of problematic integration theory. One code (fatalism vs. hope) represented manifestations of ambivalence and ambiguity in the theory; and another code (exceptionalism) represented divergence and impossibility. Two codes (role of thought processes, importance of faith) reflected forms of resolutions as described in problematic integration theory. Information needs based on prognostic information revealed four additional codes: give it to me straight, what can I do? what can I expect? and how can I prevent decline? A consistently reported desire of both patients and caregivers was for honesty and hope from providers.
This study supports the use of general prognostic information in conversations about aging, injury, frailty and patient outcomes. Incorporating prognostic information into communication aids can facilitate shared decision making before end-of-life is imminent.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Ltd.