Background: Provision of adequate care for the oldest old is increasingly crucial, given the current ageing trends. This study explores differences in end-of-life care of the oldest (≥85 years) versus the younger (65-84 years) old; testing the hypothesis that age could be an independent correlate of receiving specialised palliative care services (SPCS), having palliative-centred treatment and dying in a preferred place.
Methods: general practitioners (GPs) participating in the nation-wide representative network in the Netherlands were asked to fill in patient, illness and care characteristics of all registered patients ≥65 years, who died non-suddenly in their practices between 2005 and 2008, using standardised forms. Associations with the palliative care variables were tested using multiple logistic regression.
Results: nine hundred and ninety patients were registered. Among the oldest old, there were more women than men, more patients with heart failure than cancer, less hospital and home deaths and more residential care home deaths compared with the younger old. Of the oldest old, fewer received SPCS and more preferred to die in a residential care home than the younger old. Age was independently associated with palliative care provided: compared with the younger group, the oldest old received SPCS less often (OR = 0.7) and were treated with a palliative-centred goal more often (OR = 2.4); but age was not related to dying in a preferred place, i.e. independent of other characteristics.
Conclusion: this study shows age to be independently associated with receiving SPCS in the Dutch community. Although the GPs do recognise the 'palliative phase' in the oldest old, involvement of specialist teams is somewhat less.