Limitation of care orders in patients with a diagnosis of dementia


      The prevalence of dementia is growing with an ageing population. Most persons with dementia die of acute illness and many are hospitalised at the end of life.
      In the acute hospital setting, limitation of care orders (LCOs) such as Do Not Attempt CPR and Physician Orders For Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), appear to be underused in patients with dementia. These patients receive the same aggressive life-prolonging therapies as any other patient, despite drastically higher mortality.
      However, limitation of care orders in patients with dementia is not addressed by current guidelines or policies. Systems and processes for obtaining and documenting LCO need improvement at the individual, organisational and societal level. The issue is controversial amongst the public and poorly understood by clinicians.
      Balanced and empathetic decision-making requires an individualised approach and recognition of the complexities (legal, ethical and clinical) of this issue. We examine the domains of: (a) treatment effectiveness, (b) burden of care and quality of life and (c) patient autonomy and capacity.


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