Inclusion of palliative care in health care policy for older people: A directed documentary analysis in 13 of the most rapidly ageing countries worldwide

Lara Pivodic, Tinne Smets, Merryn Gott, Katherine E. Sleeman, Borja Arrue, Marylou Cardenas Turanzas, Karolina Pechova, Hana Kodba Čeh, Tong Jen Lo, Miharu Nakanishi, Yong Joo Rhee, Maud ten Koppel, Donna M. Wilson, Lieve Van den Block

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Palliative care is insufficiently integrated in the continuum of care for older people. It is unclear to what extent healthcare policy for older people includes elements of palliative care and thus supports its integration. Aim: (1) To develop a reference framework for identifying palliative care contents in policy documents; (2) to determine inclusion of palliative care in public policy documents on healthcare for older people in 13 rapidly ageing countries. Design: Directed documentary analysis of public policy documents (legislation, policies/strategies, guidelines, white papers) on healthcare for older people. Using existing literature, we developed a reference framework and data extraction form assessing 10 criteria of palliative care inclusion. Country experts identified documents and extracted data. Setting: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain. Results: Of 139 identified documents, 50 met inclusion criteria. The most frequently addressed palliative care elements were coordination and continuity of care (12 countries), communication and care planning, care for family, and ethical and legal aspects (11 countries). Documents in 10 countries explicitly mentioned palliative care, nine addressed symptom management, eight mentioned end-of-life care, and five referred to existing palliative care strategies (out of nine that had them). Conclusions: Health care policies for older people need revising to include reference to end-of-life care and dying and ensure linkage to existing national or regional palliative care strategies. The strong policy focus on care coordination and continuity in policies for older people is an opportunity window for palliative care advocacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-388
Number of pages20
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb


  • documentary analysis (not a MeSH heading; research design used)
  • health policy
  • older people (not a MeSH heading but important identifier of population)
  • palliative care


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