Advance care planning in dementia: recommendations for healthcare professionals.
Advance care planning (ACP) is a continuous, dynamic process of reflection and dialogue between an individual, those close to them and their healthcare professionals, concerning the individual's preferences and values concerning future treatment and care, including end-of-life care. Despite universal recognition of the importance of ACP for people with dementia, who gradually lose their ability to make informed decisions themselves, ACP still only happens infrequently, and evidence-based recommendations on when and how to perform this complex process are lacking. We aimed to develop evidence-based clinical recommendations to guide professionals across settings in the practical application of ACP in dementia care.
Following the Belgian Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine's procedures, we 1) performed an extensive literature search to identify international guidelines, articles reporting heterogeneous study designs and grey literature, 2) developed recommendations based on the available evidence and expert opinion of the author group, and 3) performed a validation process using written feedback from experts, a survey for end users (healthcare professionals across settings), and two peer-review groups (with geriatricians and general practitioners).
Based on 67 publications and validation from ten experts, 51 end users and two peer-review groups (24 participants) we developed 32 recommendations covering eight domains: initiation of ACP, evaluation of mental capacity, holding ACP conversations, the role and importance of those close to the person with dementia, ACP with people who find it difficult or impossible to communicate verbally, documentation of wishes and preferences, including information transfer, end-of-life decision-making, and preconditions for optimal implementation of ACP. Almost all recommendations received a grading representing low to very low-quality evidence.
No high-quality guidelines are available for ACP in dementia care. By combining evidence with expert and user opinions, we have defined a unique set of recommendations for ACP in people living with dementia. These recommendations form a valuable tool for educating healthcare professionals on how to perform ACP across settings.