Advance care planning and health literacy in older dialysis patients: qualitative interview study

Julien O Riordan, P M Kane, Helen Noble, Andrew Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low health literacy among older adults is associated with limited engagement in end-of-life care planning, higher hospitalisation rates and increased mortality. Frequently, older dialysis patients derive no survival benefit from dialysis and their quality of life often deteriorates further on dialysis. Older dialysis patients' values and wishes are frequently unknown during key healthcare decision making and many endure medically intensive end-of-life scenarios. The objectives of this study were to explore older dialysis patients' understanding of haemodialysis, to explore their engagement in end-of-life care planning and to explore their satisfaction with life on haemodialysis. 15 older dialysis patients participated in qualitative semistructured interviews in two haemodialysis units in Ireland. Thematic saturation was reached. Thematic analysis, applied inductively, was used to distill the data. Themes identified included disempowerment among participants reflected limited health literacy, poor advance care planning compromised participant well-being, haemodialysis compromised participants' core values. Health literacy levels among older dialysis patients are poor, patient empowerment is limited and their participation in shared decision making and advance care planning is suboptimal. Consequently, healthcare decision making, including haemodialysis, may jeopardise patients' core values. Improving health literacy through enhanced patient education and improved communication skills training for clinicians is necessary to promote patient participation in shared decision making. Clinician training to facilitate discussion of patients' values and wishes will help guide clinicians and patients towards healthcare decisions most concordant with patients' core values. This approach will optimise the circumstances for patient-centred care. [Abstract copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.]
Original languageEnglish
Journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care
Early online date15 Nov 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 15 Nov 2021


  • terminal care
  • end of life care
  • quality of life


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