Care Toward the End of Life in Older Populations and Its Implementation Facilitators and Barriers: A Scoping Review

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017 Dec 1;18(12):1000-1009.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.04.010. Epub 2017 Jun 13.


Purpose: To inform health system improvements for care of elderly populations approaching the end of life (EOL) by identifying important elements of care and implementation barriers and facilitators.

Design: A scoping review was carried out to identify key themes in EOL care. Articles were identified from MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, organizational websites, and internet searches. Eligible publications included reviews, reports, and policy documents published between 2005 and 2016. Initially, eligible documents included reviews or reports concerning effective or important models or components of EOL care in older populations, and evidence was thematically synthesized. Later, other documents were identified to contextualize implementation issues.

Results: Thematic synthesis using 35 reports identified key features in EOL care: (1) enabling policies and environments; (2) care pathways and models; (3) assessment and prognostication; (4) advance care planning and advance directives; (5) palliative and hospice care; (6) integrated and multidisciplinary care; (7) effective communication; (8) staff training and experience; (9) emotional and spiritual support; (10) personalized care; and (11) resources. Barriers in implementing EOL care include fragmented services, poor communication, difficult prognostication, difficulty in accepting prognosis, and the curative focus in medical care.

Conclusions: Quality EOL care for older populations requires many core components but the local context and implementation issues may ultimately determine if these elements can be incorporated into the system to improve care. Changes at the macro-level (system/national), meso-level (organizational), and micro-level (individual) will be required to successfully implement service changes to provide holistic and person-centered EOL care for elderly populations.

Keywords: Health services research; end-of-life care; implementation issues; older populations; scoping review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning / organization & administration*
  • Advance Directives / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Plan Implementation / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Research
  • Hong Kong
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Spirituality
  • Terminal Care / organization & administration*
  • Terminal Care / psychology