Disability and decline in physical function associated with hospital use at end of life

Amy S. Kelley, Susan L. Ettner, R. Sean Morrison, Qingling Du, Catherine A. Sarkisian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Hospital use near the end of life is often undesirable to patients, represents considerable Medicare cost, and varies widely across regions. Objective: To concurrently examine regional and patient factors, including disability and functional decline, associated with end-of-life hospital use. Design/Participants: We sampled decedents aged 65 and older (n∈=∈2,493) from the Health and Retirement Study (2000-2006), and linked data from individual Medicare claims and the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. Two-part regression models estimated the relationship between total hospital days in the last 6 months and patient characteristics including physical function, while adjusting for regional resources and hospital care intensity (HCI). Key Results: Median hospital days was 7 (range∈=∈0- 183). 53% of respondents had functional decline. Compared with decedents without functional decline, those with severe disability or decline had more regression-adjusted hospital days (range 3.47-9.05, depending on category). Dementia was associated with fewer days (-3.02); while chronic kidney disease (2.37), diabetes (2.40), stroke or transient ischemic attack (2.11), and congestive heart failure (1.74) were associated with more days. African Americans and Hispanics had more days (5.91 and 4.61, respectively). Those with family nearby had 1.62 fewer days and hospice enrollees had 1.88 fewer days. Additional hospital days were associated with urban residence (1.74) and residence in a region with more specialists (1.97) and higher HCI (2.27). Conclusions: Functional decline is significantly associated with end-of-life hospital use among older adults. To improve care and reduce costs, health care programs and policies should address specific needs of patients with functional decline and disability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)794-800
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Medicare
  • Medigap
  • disability
  • end-of-life decisions
  • functional decline


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