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Wish to Die Among Residents of Swiss Long-Term Care Facilities: A Multisite Cross-Sectional Study

Published:October 03, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2022.09.001

      Abstract

      Objectives

      The wish to die (WTD) in persons near the end of life is a clinically important, ethically and practically complex phenomenon as demonstrated by the intense debates on assisted dying legislation around the world. Despite global aging and increasing institutionalization in old age, WTD among residents of long-term care facilities (LTCF) is underexplored. We aimed to assess the prevalence of WTD and identify its predictors in older LTCF residents.

      Design

      Multisite cross-sectional observational study.

      Setting and participants

      31 LTCF in the 3 major linguistic regions of Switzerland, including residents 75 years or older, admitted to the LTCF 4 to 10 months before the study, without severe cognitive impairment.

      Methods

      Between February 2013 and June 2017, trained research staff interviewed residents to assess WTD using 2 validated instruments and collected information on potential predictors, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, demoralization, feeling to be a burden, spiritual distress, symptom burden, multimorbidity, and drug use. Demographic data were obtained by chart review. Descriptive statistics as well as univariate and multivariate regression analyses were performed.

      Results

      From 427 eligible residents, 101 were excluded, 46 refused, and 280 were included in the study (acceptance rate 85.9%). In general, residents readily and openly addressed the topic of WTD. The prevalence of WTD was 16.0% and 16.2% according to the 2 instruments, with all but 1 of the residents expressing a passive WTD. The strongest independent predictors for a WTD were depressive symptoms (OR 7.45 and 5.77 for the 2 WTD assessment instruments) and demoralization (OR 2.62 and 3.66).

      Conclusions and implications

      The WTD is a relevant concern affecting approximately 1 in 6 LTCF residents. Further research is needed to investigate which interventions could best address the potentially modifiable factors that were associated with the WTD in this specific setting and population.

      Keywords

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