Patterns of functional decline in hospice: What can individuals and their families expect?

Pamela Harris, Esther Wong, Sue Farrington, Teresa R. Craig, Joan K. Harrold, Betty Oldanie, Joan M. Teno, David J. Casarett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objectives To describe the trajectory of functional decline after an individual is referred to hospice. Design Electronic health record-based retrospective cohort study. Setting Three hospice programs in the U.S. southeast, northeast, and midwest. Participants Individuals in hospice. Main outcome measures Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) scores measured at intervals between hospice enrollment and death, on a scale from 10 to 100. Results In 8,669 decedents, there was an average 13.8-point decline in PPS score. After adjusting for baseline PPS score and length of stay in hospice, three distinct trajectories were identified, each of which consisted of two diagnoses whose rates of decline had 95% confidence intervals (CIs) that overlapped. The most rapid decline was observed for individuals with cancer (adjusted decline 8.44 points/wk; 95% CI = 8.03-8.82) and stroke (adjusted decline 7.67 points/wk, 95% CI = 7.08-8.29). A significantly slower decline was observed in individuals with pulmonary disease (adjusted decline 5.02 points/wk, 95% CI = 4.24-5.75) and cardiac disease (adjusted decline 4.53 points/wk, 95% CI = 4.05-5.05). Individuals with debility (adjusted decline 1.86 points/wk, 95% CI = 0.95-2.78) and dementia (adjusted decline 1.98 points/wk, 95% CI = 1.01-2.89) had the slowest decline. In an inverse probability-weighted sample of individuals who had a PPS score recorded in the last day of life (n = 1,959, 22.6%), 35.9% had a PPS score of at least 40, indicating some oral intake, variable mental status, limited self-care, and an ability to get out of bed for at least part of the day. Conclusion Although functional status generally declines in individuals in hospice, this decline is heterogeneous. Some individuals retain some physical and cognitive function until the last day of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-417
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • functional status
  • hospice
  • prognosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns of functional decline in hospice: What can individuals and their families expect?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this