Advance Care Planning and Decision-Making in a Home-Based Primary Care Service in a Canadian Urban Centre


  • Madison Huggins University of British Columbia
  • Margaret J. McGregor University of British Columbia
  • Michelle B. Cox University of British Columbia
  • Katie Bauder University of British Columbia
  • Jay Slater University of British Columbia
  • Clarissa Yap Vancouver General Hospital
  • Laurie Mallery Dalhousie University
  • Paige Moorhouse Dalhousie University
  • Conrad Rusnak University of British Columbia



advance care planning, substitute decision-maker, frailty staging, do not resuscitate, do not hospitalize, home-based primary care


Advance care planning (ACP) is a process that enables individuals to describe, in advance, the kind of health care they would want in the future, and has been shown to reduce hospital-based interventions at the end of life. Our goal was to describe the current state of ACP in a home-based primary care program for frail homebound older people in Vancouver, Canada. We did this by identifying four key elements that should be essential to ACP in this program: frailty stage, documentation of substitute decision-makers, and decision-making with regard to both resuscitation (i.e., do not resuscitate (DNR)) and hospitalization (i.e., do not hospitalize (DNH)). While these elements are an important part of the ACP process, they are often excluded from common practice.

This was a cross-sectional, observational study of data abstracted from 200 randomly selected patient electronic medical records between July 1 and September 30, 2017. We describe the association between demographic characteristics, comorbidities, and four key elements of ACP documentation and decision-making as documented in the clinical record using bivariate comparison, a logistic regression model and multiple logistic regression analysis.

In 73% (n=146) of the patient records, there was no explicit documentation of frailty stage. Sixty-four percent had documentation of a substitute decision-maker. Of those who had their preferences documented, 90.6% (n=144/159) indicated a preference for DNR, and 23.6% (n=29/123) indicated a preference for DNH. In multiple regression modeling, a diagnosis of dementia and older age were associated with documentation of a DNR preference, adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 4.79 (95% CI 1.37, 16.71) and AOR = 1.14 (95% CI 1.05, 1.24), respectively. Older age, male sex, and English identified as the main language spoken were associated with a DNH preference. AOR = 1.17 (95% CI 1.06, 1.28), AOR = 4.19 (95% CI 1.41, 12.42), and AOR = 3.42 (95% CI 1.14, 10.20), respectively. 

Clinician documentation of some elements of ACP, such as identification of a substitute decision-maker and resuscitation status, have been widely adopted, while other elements that should be considered essential components of ACP, such as frailty staging and preferences around hospitalization, are infrequent and provide an opportunity for practice improvement initiatives. The significant association between language and ACP decisions suggests an important role for supporting cross-cultural fluency in the ACP process.


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How to Cite

Huggins M, McGregor MJ, Cox MB, Bauder K, Slater J, Yap C, Mallery L, Moorhouse P, Rusnak C. Advance Care Planning and Decision-Making in a Home-Based Primary Care Service in a Canadian Urban Centre. Can Geriatr J [Internet]. 2019 Dec. 2 [cited 2023 Nov. 30];22(4):182-9. Available from:



Original Research