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Well-Being at the End of Life

Authors
  • Carr, Deborah
  • Luth, Elizabeth A.
Type
Published Article
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Jul 30, 2019
Volume
45
Pages
515–534
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-soc-073018-022524
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
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Abstract

This review proposes that the end of life is a uniquely contemporary life course stage. Epidemiologic, technological, and cultural shifts over the past two centuries have created a context in which dying has shifted from a sudden and unexpected event to a protracted, anticipated transition following an incurable chronic illness. The emergence of an end-of-life stage lasting for months or even years has heightened public interest in enhancing patient well-being, autonomy, and the receipt of medical care that accords with patient and family members’ wishes. We describe key components of end-of-life well-being and highlight socioeconomic and race disparities therein, drawing on fundamental cause theory. We describe two practices that are critical to end-of-life well-being (advance care planning and hospice) and identify limitations that may undermine their effectiveness. We conclude with recommendations for future sociological research that could inform practices to enhance patient and family well-being at the end of life.

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