Late Transitions and Bereaved Family Member Perceptions of Quality of End-of-Life Care


To examine associations between healthcare transitions at the end of life (EOL; late transitions) and bereaved family members' and friends' assessment of EOL quality of care (QOC).


National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), a prospective cohort of Medicare enrollees aged 65 and older.


United States, all sites of death.


Family members and close friends of decedents from NHATS Rounds 2 through 6 (N=1,653; weighted 6.0 million Medicare deaths).


Multivariable logistic regression with survey weights was used to examine the association between having a late transition and reports of perceived unmet needs for symptom management, spiritual support, concerns with communication, and overall QOC.


Seventeen percent of decedents had a late transition. Bereaved respondents for decedents experiencing late transitions were more likely to report that the decedent was treated without respect (21.3% vs 15.6%; adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=1.59, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.09-2.33), had more unmet needs for spiritual support (67.4% v 55.2%; AOR=1.48, 95% CI=1.03-2.13), and were more likely to report they were not kept informed about the person's condition (31.0% vs 20.9%; AOR=1.54, 95% CI=1.07-2.23). Bereaved respondents were less likely to rate QOC as excellent when there was a late transition (43.6% vs 48.2%; AOR=0.79, 95% CI=0.58-1.06). Subgroup analyses of those experiencing a transition between a nursing home and hospital (13% of all late transitions) revealed such transitions to be associated with even worse QOC.


Transitions in the last 3 days of life are associated with more unmet needs, higher rate of concerns, and lower rating of QOC than when such late transitions are absent, especially when that transition is between a nursing home and hospital.