Treatment priorities among older people if faced with serious illness: improving the quality of life or extending life?

  • Rafaela Jorge Doctoral Program in Gerontology and Geriatrics; University of Aveiro, Portugal; Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal.
  • Adelaide Freitas Center for Research & Development in Mathematics and Applications(CIDMA) & Department of Mathematics, University of Aveiro, Portugal.
  • Liliana Sousa Department of Education and Psychology, CINTESIS.UA (Center for Health Technology and Services Research), University of Aveiro, Portugal.
Keywords: aged, life extension, quality of life, palliative care, public health, Brazil


Objective: This study aimed to analyse older people`s end-of-life care priorities and to identify factors associated with these priorities.

Methods: We asked 400 people aged 60 years or older living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil their treatment priorities if faced with a serious illness with limited time to live. Multinomial logistic regressions were used to identify the associated factors.

Results: Most participants (65.3%) chose the option ‘improve quality of life for the time they had left’. Only 4% said extending life was the most important priority while the option ‘both equally important’ (quality and extension) was chosen by 30.8 of respondents. Participants in the age group 60-69 years were more likely to choose both quality and life extension than choose to extend life alone (AOR=0.18, 95% CI:0.05-0.72; ref: 80+ years). The group comprised of single + widowers is more likely to prioritize both quality and extension than to prioritize just extending life (AOR=0.28, 95% CI:0.09-0.89; ref: the others marital status) and or just improving the quality of life (AOR=0.62, 95% CI:0.40-0.95; ref: the others marital status).

Conclusion: The findings indicated that treatment for improving the quality of life was the most important priority. Two factors influenced the priorities (age group and marital status). To meet people's treatment priorities at end of life policies need to be formulated to develop palliative care services, train health-care professionals and educate patients.

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