Adolescents with cardiac disease are at risk for life-changing complications and premature death. The importance of advance care planning (ACP) in adults with congenital heart disease and in pediatric patients with HIV and cancer has been demonstrated. ACP preferences of adolescents with heart disease have not been evaluated. We describe ACP preferences of adolescents with heart disease and compare with those of their caregivers.
Outpatient adolescents aged 12 to 18 years with heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart transplantation, or who were at risk for cardiomyopathy, as well as their caregivers, completed self-administered questionnaires which evaluated participants’ opinions regarding content and timing of ACP discussions, preferences for end-of-life communication, and emotional responses to ACP.
Seventy-eight adolescents and 69 caregivers participated, forming 62 adolescent-caregiver dyads. Adolescents and caregivers reported that adolescent ACP discussions should occur early in the disease course (75% and 61%, respectively). Adolescents (92%) wanted to be told about terminal prognosis, whereas only 43% of caregivers wanted the doctor to tell their child this information. Most adolescents (72%) and caregivers (67%) anticipated that discussing ACP would make the adolescent feel relieved the medical team knew their wishes. Most caregivers (61%) believed that adolescents would feel stress associated with ACP discussions, whereas only 31% of adolescents anticipated this.
Adolescents and their caregivers agree that ACP should occur early in disease course. There are discrepancies regarding communication of prognosis and perceived adolescent stress related to ACP discussions. Facilitated conversations between patient, caregiver, and providers may align goals of care and communication preferences.