Serious Illness in Late Life: The Public’s Views and Experiences

Serious Illness in Late Life: The Public’s Views and Experiences

New Kaiser Family Foundation Survey

Computer assisted interviews conducted by landline and cell phone were carried out in English and Spanish by SSRS.

The number of older Americans is growing rapidly. The share of adults 65 or older in the U.S. is expected to rise from 14.5 percent of the population in 2014 to 21.7 percent of the population by 2040. While medical advances have allowed many older adults to live longer, healthier lives, many are also living with multiple chronic conditions that are likely to lead to a slow deterioration over time. In the context of these demographic changes and the challenges arising from an older population with serious health needs, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) conducted a large scale nationally representative telephone survey of 2,040 adults, in order to better understand people’s expectations about later life and efforts they’ve taken to plan for if they become seriously ill.

This survey will serve as a baseline and we will conduct future surveys to measure how these attitudes and experiences change over time. To learn more about the experiences of those with serious illness specifically, this survey included interviews with 998 adults who are either personally age 65 or older living with a serious illness, or have a family member who is or was before they recently died. For this survey, those who are seriously ill are older adults who have at least one of several chronic conditions and report functional limitations due to a health or memory problem such as difficulty preparing meals, shopping for groceries, taking medications, getting across a room, eating, dressing, bathing, or using the toilet. This broad definition not only includes people who are quite ill and in their last few months of life, but also those who may be earlier in their disease course who have many months or years yet to live.