‘Til Death Do Us Part: End-of-Life Experiences of Married Couples in a Nationally Representative Survey

Title‘Til Death Do Us Part: End-of-Life Experiences of Married Couples in a Nationally Representative Survey
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsKotwal, AA, Abdoler, E, L Diaz-Ramirez, G, Kelley, A, Ornstein, KA, W Boscardin, J, Smith, AK
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Date PublishedJan-09-2020
KeywordsEnd of life decisions, End-of-life care, Hospice, Marriage

Objectives: To determine whether end-of-life (EOL) experiences in the first spouse in a marriage are associated with EOL experiences in the other spouse. Design: Nationally representative, longitudinal survey. Setting: Health and Retirement Study, Waves 1992–2012 linked to Medicare claims. Participants: Community-dwelling older adults who died (N=4,558), representing 2,279 married heterosexual couples. Measurements: We examined 3 EOL experiences: enrollment in hospice for >3 days before death, lack of advance care planning (ACP) before death, and intensive care unit (ICU) use during the last 30 days of life. We used multiple logistic regression to determine whether the EOL experience of the first spouse was a significant predictor of the EOL experience of the second spouse after adjusting for demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, health status, and time between the first and second spouses' deaths. Results: First spouses who died were on average 80 years old, and 62% were male; second spouses were on average 85 years old, and 62% were female. After adjustment, second spouses were more likely to use hospice if the first spouse used hospice (odds ratio (OR)=1.68, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.29–2.20). Second spouses were less likely to have ACP when the first spouse did not have ACP (OR=2.91, 95% CI=2.02–4.21). Hospice and ACP associations were stronger when deaths were closer in time to one another (p-value for interaction <.05). Second spouses were more likely to use ICU services if the first spouse did (OR=1.80, 95% CI=1.27–2.55). Conclusions: The EOL experiences of older spouses are strongly associated, which may be relevant when framing ACP discussions. © 2018, Copyright the Author Journal compilation © 2018, The American Geriatrics Society

Short TitleJ Am Geriatr Soc
Citation Key9857