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New Project Brings End-Of-Life Planning To Nursing Homes

Samantha Horton

The Indiana State Department of Health awarded a three-year $332,360 grant to the University of Southern Indiana for research into advance care planning in 15 nursing homes in Southwest Indiana.

The project will train 75 facilitators to have conversations with incoming nursing home residents about their end-of-life wishes. Some of the discussion topics would include appointing a representative to make health care choices if the patient is unable to, deciding whether or not they wish to be resuscitated, and using those decisions to fill out an advance directive, a document stating one's health care preferences.

Most nursing homes don’t have the staff to help each resident fill out an advance directive, and because filling out such forms is voluntary, the chances increase of them never being completed.

Without an advance directive or other legal form such as a POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), a person’s final days and weeks may not go as they wish.

“When we look at advance directives, we’re not talking about how to die; we’re talking about how to live. It’s a quality of life issue," said Indiana State Department Health Assistant Commissioner Terry Whitson at Wednesday’s announcement.

Whitson also commented on the importance of having conversations in the health care system about advance care planning to provide patients quality care.

The nursing home research project will include a follow-up component. After a resident fills out an advance directive, a researcher will follow up to see how well the residents’ wishes were followed.

“What we want to be able to do is improve our processes, work very closely with our nursing homes to improve the lives of our residents and their families. And so we just think it’s going to take us to the next level of advance care planning," said Kevin Valadares, the project’s principal investigator.

Valadares also serves as USI chair of health administration and associate professor of health service and is a part of the New Harmony Conversations, a community group working to have advance care conversations with local residents.

Along with the announcement, USI launched a web page discussing the grant, the team, and more details about the project.

This story was produced by a partnership with Side Effects Public Media andWNIN News.