Preparing family surrogates for patient death and end-of-life (EOL) decision making may reduce surrogate decisional conflict and regret. Preparedness for patient death involves cognitive and emotional preparedness. We assessed the associations of surrogates’ death-preparedness states (that integrate both cognitive and emotional preparedness for patient death) with surrogates’ decisional conflict and regret.
Associations of 173 surrogates’ death-preparedness states (no, cognitive-only, emotional-only, and sufficient preparedness states) with decisional conflict (measured by the Decision Conflict Scale) and heightened decisional regret (Decision Regret Scale scores >25) were evaluated using hierarchical linear modeling and hierarchical generalized linear modeling, respectively, during a longitudinal observational study at a medical center over cancer patients’ last 6 months.
Surrogates reported high decisional conflict (mean [standard deviation] = 41.48 [6.05]), and 52.7% of assessments exceeded the threshold for heightened decisional regret. Surrogates in the cognitive-only preparedness state reported a significantly higher level of decisional conflict (β = 3.010 [95% CI = 1.124, 4.896]) than those in the sufficient preparedness state. Surrogates in the no (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] [95% CI] = 0.293 [0.113, 0.733]) and emotional-only (AOR [95% CI] = 0.359 [0.149, 0.866]) preparedness states were less likely to suffer heightened decisional regret than those in the sufficient preparedness state.
Surrogates’ decisional conflict and heightened decisional regret are associated with their death-preparedness states. Improving emotional preparedness for the patient’s death among surrogates in the cognitive-only preparedness state and meeting the specific needs of those in the no, emotional-only, and sufficient preparedness states are actionable high-quality EOL-care interventions that may lessen decisional conflict and decisional regret.