Objective: Few studies have evaluated the end-of-life preferences of elderly patients in rural communities and whether preferences are associated with level of health literacy.
Design: Randomized controlled trial of a goals-of-care video decision aid of advanced dementia.
Participants: Elderly subjects (65 years or older) at a primary care clinic in rural Louisiana.
Methods: Half of subjects heard a verbal description of advanced dementia and the goals of care; the other half heard the same verbal description and then viewed the video decision aid. End points were the preferred goal of care in advanced dementia: life-prolonging care (cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR], etc.), limited care (hospitalization but not CPR), or comfort care (symptom relief). The principal category for analysis was the difference in proportions of subjects preferring comfort care for each characteristic including randomization group and health literacy level.
Results: Seventy-six subjects were randomized to the verbal (n = 43) or video (n = 33) arms of the study. Among subjects receiving the verbal description of advanced dementia and the goals of care, 31 (72%) preferred comfort; 5 (12%) chose limited; and 7 (16%) desired life-prolonging. In the video group, 30 (91%) preferred comfort; 3 (9%) chose limited; and none desired life-prolonging (χ(2) = 6.3, df = 2, p = 0.047). Factors associated with greater likelihood of opting for comfort included greater health literacy (unadjusted odds ratio [OR] 12.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.4-62.6) and randomization to the video (unadjusted OR 3.9; 95% CI, 1.0-15.1).
Conclusion: Rural subjects with higher health literacy were more likely to want comfort care compared to those with lower levels of health literacy. Furthermore, subjects who viewed a video decision aid were more likely to opt for comfort compared to those who solely listened to a verbal description. These findings suggest that video can help elicit preferences and that interventions to empower such patients need to be designed in a manner that is sensitive to health literacy.