Background: To provide optimal care for our ageing population, some form of advance care planning (ACP) is essential. Overseas data suggest that the process of ACP and the use of advance care directives (ACD) is suboptimal in residential care institutions. By comparison there are few Australian data.
Aim: To study the process of ACP and the prevalence of ACD in residential care.
Methods: Cross-sectional study using a questionnaire in the Hunter area, NSW, Australia.
Results: Very low levels of formal advance directives were found (available for only 0.2%). Only 1.1% of residents had 'no-CPR' orders documented in the medical record, while 5.6% had a formal guardian and 2.8% had an enduring guardian. Informal processes of advance planning were much more prevalent. Sixty-five per cent had a 'person responsible' recorded to make decisions for them while in 13% of cases, there was 'staff consensus' as to the optimal care for the patient. However, in 10.6% there was no clear process for medical decision making identified.
Conclusions: Advanced directives are infrequently used in residential care. Further qualitative and quantitative studies are warranted to explore current processes of decision making.