Life-Sustaining Treatments Among Medicare Beneficiaries with and without Dementia at the End of Life

Yingying Zhu, Natalia Olchanski, Joshua T. Cohen, Karen M. Freund, Jessica D. Faul, Howard M. Fillit, Peter J. Neumann, Pei Jung Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Older adults with dementia including Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty communicating their treatment preferences and thus may receive intensive end-of-life (EOL) care that confers limited benefits. Objective: This study compared the use of life-sustaining interventions during the last 90 days of life among Medicare beneficiaries with and without dementia. Methods: This cohort study utilized population-based national survey data from the 2000-2016 Health and Retirement Study linked with Medicare and Medicaid claims. Our sample included Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged 65 years or older deceased between 2000 and 2016. The main outcome was receipt of any life-sustaining interventions during the last 90 days of life, including mechanical ventilation, tracheostomy, tube feeding, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We used logistic regression, stratified by nursing home use, to examine dementia status (no dementia, non-advanced dementia, advanced dementia) and patient characteristics associated with receiving those interventions. Results: Community dwellers with dementia were more likely than those without dementia to receive life-sustaining treatments in their last 90 days of life (advanced dementia: OR = 1.83 [1.42–2.35]; non-advanced dementia: OR = 1.16 [1.01–1.32]). Advance care planning was associated with lower odds of receiving life-sustaining treatments in the community (OR = 0.84 [0.74–0.96]) and in nursing homes (OR = 0.68 [0.53–0.86]). More beneficiaries with advanced dementia received interventions discordant with their EOL treatment preferences. Conclusions: Community dwellers with advanced dementia were more likely to receive life-sustaining treatments at the end of life and such treatments may be discordant with their EOL wishes. Enhancing advance care planning and patient-physician communication may improve EOL care quality for persons with dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1193
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Advance care planning
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • end of life
  • life-sustaining treatments


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