Code status decision-making in a nursing home population: processes and outcomes

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1995 Feb;43(2):113-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1995.tb06375.x.


Objectives: To examine the clinical utility of prehospital code status discussions in a nursing home (NH) setting and the health care outcomes of the decisions made. Also to identify patient factors and other variables associated with these decisions.

Design: Retrospective uncontrolled observational study carried out through record review.

Setting: A single skilled-level teaching NH and its affiliated university hospital.

Patients: All of the 350 individuals who resided at the NH during a 2-year period.

Main results: Code status decisions were routinely sought through discussion involving primary care physician/social worker teams and residents or surrogates of demented patients. Choices were made for 80% of the NH residents, most (73%) by surrogates and most (80%) for do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, usually within 10 weeks of NH admission. Neither short-term measures of NH care intensity nor hospital use changed after a DNR decision. Most (80%) hospital transfer records included code status documentation. At the NH, both the likelihood of decisions and their directions were associated with involvement by specific physician/social worker teams. Additionally, a dementia diagnosis, white race, and older age were associated with a nursing home DNR decision. At the hospital, a DNR order was associated with white race, the presence of nursing home DNR documentation in the transfer records, hospital attending care by certain NH physicians, and a terminal hospital stay. Hospital inpatient medical and surgical therapy use, except for intensive care procedures, was similar for DNR and non-DNR inpatients. Residents with DNR orders had a higher mortality rate, yet most survived at least 1 year after the order. In the short term, a DNR order had no impact on measured health care resource consumption, but, for those in the final months of life, in-patient hospital use was less for the DNR group, and most of these died at the nursing home.

Conclusions: Prehospital code status decisions can be made effectively within the NH setting. Outside of medical intensive care, DNR orders have no impact on NH and hospital care intensity in the short term. In the final 6 months of life, however, hospital use is less for the DNR subgroup.

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directives
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Resource Allocation
  • Resuscitation Orders*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care