Advance Care Planning in Cognitively Impaired Older Adults

Jane deLima Thomas, Sandra Sanchez-Reilly, Rachelle Bernacki, Lynn O'Neill, Laura J. Morrison, Jennifer Kapo, Vyjeyanthi S. Periyakoil, Elise C. Carey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Older adults with cognitive impairment face many healthcare challenges, chief among them participating in medical decision-making about their own health care. Advance care planning (ACP) is the process whereby individuals communicate their wishes for future care with their clinicians and surrogate decision-makers while they are still able to do so. ACP has been shown to improve important outcomes for individuals with cognitive impairment, but rates of ACP for these individuals are low because of individual-, clinician-, and system-related factors. Addressing ACP early in the illness trajectory can maximize the chances that people can participate meaningfully. This article recommends best practices for approaching ACP for older adults with cognitive impairment. The importance of providing anticipatory guidance and eliciting values to guide future care to create a shared framework between clinicians, individuals, and surrogate decision-makers is emphasized. It is recommended that ACP be approached as an iterative process to continue to honor and support people's wishes as cognitive impairment progresses and increasingly threatens independence and function. The article describes effective strategies for assessing decision-making capacity, identifying surrogate decision-makers, and using structured communication tools for ACP. It also provides guidelines for documentation and billing. Finally, special considerations for individuals with advanced dementia are described, including the use of artificial hydration and nutrition, decisions about site of care, and the role of hospice care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1474
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • advance care planning
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Advance Care Planning in Cognitively Impaired Older Adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this