Objective: To assess the effects of a multimedia educational intervention about advance directives (ADs) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the knowledge, attitude and activity toward ADs and life-sustaining treatments of elderly veterans.
Design: Prospective randomized controlled, single blind study of educational interventions.
Setting: General medicine clinic of a university-affiliated Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC).
Participants: One hundred seventeen Veterans, 70 years of age or older, deemed able to make medical care decisions.
Intervention: The control group (n = 55) received a handout about ADs in use at the VAMC. The experimental group (n = 62) received the same handout, with an additional handout describing procedural aspects and outcomes of CPR, and they watched a videotape about ADs.
Measurements and main results: Patients' attitudes and actions toward ADs, CPR and life-sustaining treatments were recorded before the intervention, after it, and 2 to 4 weeks after the intervention through self-administered questionnaires. Only 27.8% of subjects stated that they knew what an AD is in the preintervention questionnaire. This proportion improved in both the experimental and control (87.2% experimental, 52.5% control) subject groups, but stated knowledge of what an AD is was higher in the experimental group (odds ratio = 6.18, p <.001) and this effect, although diminished, persisted in the follow-up questionnaire (OR = 3.92, p =. 003). Prior to any intervention, 15% of subjects correctly estimated the likelihood of survival after CPR. This improved after the intervention in the experimental group (OR = 4.27, p =.004), but did not persist at follow-up. In the postintervention questionnaire, few subjects in either group stated that they discussed CPR or ADs with their physician on that day (OR = 0.97, p = NS).
Conclusion: We developed a convenient means of educating elderly male patients regarding CPR and advance directives that improved short-term knowledge but did not stimulate advance care planning.