Goals of older hospitalised patients: a qualitative descriptive study

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Objectives Since the population continues ageing and the number of patients with multiple chronic diseases is rising in Western countries, a shift is recommended from disease oriented towards goal-oriented healthcare. As little is known about individual goals and preferences of older hospitalised patients, the aim of this study is to elucidate the goals of a diverse group of older hospitalised patients.

Design Qualitative descriptive method with open interviews analysed with inductive content analysis.

Setting A university teaching hospital and a regional teaching hospital.

Participants Twenty-eight hospitalised patients aged 70 years and older.

Results Some older hospitalised patients initially had difficulties describing concrete goals, but after probing all were able to state more concrete goals. A great diversity of goals were categorised into wanting to know what the matter is, controlling disease, staying alive, improving condition, alleviating complaints, improving daily functioning, improving/maintaining social functioning, resuming work/hobbies and regaining/maintaining autonomy.

Conclusions Older hospitalised patients have a diversity of goals in different domains. Discussing goals with older patients is not a common practice yet. Timely discussions about goals should be encouraged because individual goals are not self-evident and this discussion can guide decision making, especially in patients with multimorbidity and frailty. Aids can be helpful to facilitate the discussion about goals and evaluate the outcomes of hospitalisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere029993
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2019


  • geriatric medicine
  • older adults
  • hospitalisation
  • patient perspective
  • goal setting
  • qualitative research
  • CARE

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