Background: This study is designed to explore the impact of peer mentoring on end-of-life decision making.
Methods: A controlled randomized intervention study with 203 patients from 21 dialysis centers across Michigan explored the impact of peer mentors, dialysis patients trained to help other patients, on end-of-life planning.
Results: Communicating information on advance directives (ADs) through peer mentoring significantly influenced the completion of ADs overall compared with distributing standard printed material or no specific designed intervention. However, the influence was most prominent among African Americans, not only increasing actual completion of ADs (P < 0.001) and comfort discussing ADs (P < 0.01), but also improving subjective well-being (P < 0.05) and anxiety (P < 0.05) during the study period. These effects of peer mentoring did not appear among white patients, although printed material on ADs decreased reported suicidal ideation (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: These results suggest the importance of addressing specific cultural factors in the process of AD education. Common practice assumes that printed materials are effective in educating patients about health care and decision making. However, peer mentoring, a relationship-centered person-to-person approach, may be more effective in some cultural groups because it partakes of oral, rather than written, traditions. Acknowledging cultural differences and tailoring our approach could be powerful in enhancing trust and participation and decreasing potential disparities in health care outcomes.