Advance Care Planning: Contemporary Issues and Future Directions

Deborah Carr, Elizabeth A. Luth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Advance care planning (ACP) is widely considered an essential step toward achieving end-of-life care that is consistent with the preferences of dying patients and their families. ACP comprises a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC); these tools enable patients to articulate and convey their treatment preferences when they are still cognitively intact. In this article, we describe the strengths, weaknesses, and correlates of ACP in the United States, with attention to race and socioeconomic disparities therein. We then discuss other public policies and community programs designed to increase both the number of older adults who articulate their preferences for end-of-life care, and efficacy of ACP for ensuring that patients' end-of-life treatment preferences are met. We describe the characteristics, strengths, and limitations of Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs), and describe community programs, educational interventions, and public policies aimed toward increasing the prevalence and efficacy of end-of-life preparations. A key policy advance in the early 2010s has been Medicare coverage of one doctor-patient consultation session regarding end-of-life issues; we highlight the potentials and possible pitfalls of this policy. We conclude by identifying areas for future research, and highlighting practices from other nations that may help improve quality of end-of-life care in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • Advance care planning
  • Death and dying
  • Disparities
  • End of life
  • Epidemiology
  • Policy


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