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Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2010 Dec;4(4):238-42. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e328340684f.

Decision making among older people with advanced heart failure as they transition to dependency and death.

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  • 1School of Nursing, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



This review critically considers recent research, identifying patient experiences of, and preferences for, participation in decision making during the end-of-life transition.


Clinicians typically experience significant difficulties in engaging older patients with advanced heart failure in discussions about palliative and end-of-life care and involving them in shared decision making. Advanced care planning is proposed as an approach to ensure greater patient involvement in end-of-life care management, although evidence regarding effective interventions in this area is limited. Policy initiatives and guidelines appear not to reflect clinical reality and healthcare professionals experience significant barriers in transferring the required knowledge and skills into their practice. The notion of transition itself as a process that healthcare professionals could use for assessment and management requires further research, but does offer more than just a focus on heart failure management at the end-of-life.


This review indicates a need to think carefully about how policy recommendations and guidance relating to patient participation in decision making at the end-of-life can be effectively implemented in practice. The need for continuity of involvement from key health workers is identified as very important in this regard. 'Transition' is also considered as a concept that may offer health professionals a different approach for assessment and management of heart failure patients over a longer period and means of integrating heart failure management with palliative care.

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