Medical Decision-Making around the Time of Death of Cognitively Impaired Nursing Home Residents: A Pilot Study

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield*, Steven Lipson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to describe the end-of-life process in the nursing home for three groups of cognitively-impaired nursing home residents: those who died with a medical decision-making process prior to death; those who died without such a decision-making process; and those who had a status-change event and a medical decision-making process, and did not die prior to data collection. Residents had experienced a medical status-change event within the 24 hours prior to data collection, and were unable to make their own decisions due to cognitive impairment. Data on the decision-making process during the event, including the type of event, the considerations used in making the decisions, and who was involved in making these decisions were collected from the residents' charts and through interviews with their physicians or nurse practitioners. When there was no decision-making process immediately prior to death, a decision-making process was usually reported to have occurred previously, with most decisions calling either for comfort care or limitation of care. When comparing those events leading to death with other status-change events, those who died were more likely to have suffered from troubled breathing than those who remained alive. Hospitalization was used only among those who survived, whereas diagnostic tests and comfort care were used more often with those who died. Those who died had more treatments considered and chosen than did those who remained alive. For half of those who died, physicians felt that they would have preferred less treatment for themselves if they were in the place of the decedents. The results represent preliminary data concerning decision-making processes surrounding death of the cognitively-impaired in the nursing home. Additional research is needed to elucidate the trends uncovered in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


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