Use of Advance Directives in US Veterans and Non-Veterans: Findings from the Decedents of the Health and Retirement Study 1992-2014.

TitleUse of Advance Directives in US Veterans and Non-Veterans: Findings from the Decedents of the Health and Retirement Study 1992-2014.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsTUNG, HO-JUI, Yeh, M-C
JournalHealthcare (Basel)
ISSN Number2227-9032
KeywordsAdvance directives, United States, Veterans

Evidence shows that older patients with advance directives such as a living will, or durable power of attorney for healthcare, are more likely to receive care consistent with their preferences at the end of life. Less is known about the use of advance directives between veteran and non-veteran older Americans. Using data from the decedents of a longitudinal survey, we explore whether there is a difference in having an established advance directive between the veteran and non-veteran decedents. Data were taken from the Harmonized End of Life data sets, a linked collection of variables derived from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) Exit Interview. Only male decedents were included in the current analysis (N = 4828). The dependent variable, having an established advance directive, was measured by asking the proxy, "whether the deceased respondent ever provided written instructions about the treatment or care he/she wanted to receive during the final days of his/her life" and "whether the deceased respondent had a Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare?" A "yes" to either of the two items was counted as having an advance directive. The independent variable, veteran status, was determined by asking participants, "Have you ever served in the active military of the United States?" at their first HRS core interview. Logistic regression was used to predict the likelihood of having an established advance directive. While there was no difference in having an advance directive between male veteran and non-veteran decedents during the earlier follow-up period (from 1992 to 2003), male veterans who died during the second half of the study period (from 2004 to 2014) were more likely to have an established advance directive than their non-veteran counterparts (OR = 1.24, < 0.05). Other factors positively associated with having an established advance directive include dying at older ages, higher educational attainment, needing assistance in activities of daily living and being bedridden three months before death, while Black decedents and those who were married were less likely to have an advance directive in place. Our findings suggest male veterans were more likely to have an established advance directive, an indicator for better end-of-life care, than their non-veteran counterparts. This observed difference coincides with a time when the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) increased its investment in end-of-life care. More studies are needed to confirm if this higher utilization of advance directives and care planning among veterans can be attributed to the improved access and quality of end-of-life care in the VHA system.

Citation Key13420
PubMed ID37444658
PubMed Central IDPMC10341334