Spousal Characteristics and Older Adults' Hospice Use: Understanding Disparities in End-of-Life Care

TitleSpousal Characteristics and Older Adults' Hospice Use: Understanding Disparities in End-of-Life Care
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsOrnstein, KA, Aldridge, MD, Mair, CA, Gorges, RJ, Siu, AL, Kelley, AS
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
KeywordsHealthcare, Medicare/Medicaid/Health Insurance, Public Policy, Retirement Planning and Satisfaction

Background: Hospice use has been shown to benefit quality of life for patients with terminal illness and their families, with further evidence of cost savings for Medicare and other payers. While disparities in hospice use by patient diagnosis, race, and region are well documented and attention to the role of family members in end-of-life decision-making is increasing, the influence of spousal characteristics on the decision to use hospice is unknown. Objectives: To determine the association between spousal characteristics and hospice use. Design: We used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a prospective cohort study, linked to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care and Medicare claims. Setting: National study of 1567 decedents who were married or partnered at the time of death (2000 2011). Measures: Hospice use at least 1 day in the last year of life as measured via Medicare claims data. Spousal factors (e.g., education and health status) measured via survey. Results: In multivariate models controlling for patient factors and regional variation, spouses with lower educational attainment than their deceased spouse had decreased likelihood of hospice use (odds ratio OR = 0.58; 95 confidence interval CI = 0.40 0.82). Health of the spouse was not significantly associated with likelihood of decedent hospice use in adjusted models. Implications: Although the health of the surviving spouse was not associated with hospice use, their educational level was a predictor of hospice use. Spousal and family characteristics, including educational attainment, should be examined further in relation to disparities in hospice use. Efforts to increase access to high-quality end-of-life care for individuals with serious illness must also address the needs and concerns of caregivers and family.

Endnote Keywords

hospice/medicare/Public Policy/end of life/caregiver burden

Endnote ID


Citation Key8408
PubMed ID26991831
PubMed Central IDPMC4860657