cancer, multiple chronic conditions, older adults, palliative care



  1. Murali, Komal Patel PhD, RN, ACNP-BC
  2. Merriman, John D. PhD, RN
  3. Yu, Gary DrPH
  4. Vorderstrasse, Allison DNSc, RN, FAAN
  5. Kelley, Amy S. MD, MSHS, FAAHPM
  6. Brody, Abraham A. PhD, RN, FAAN


Understanding the complex care needs of seriously ill adults with multiple chronic conditions with and without cancer is critical for the delivery of high-quality serious illness and palliative care at the end of life. The objective of this secondary data analysis of a multisite randomized clinical trial in palliative care was to elucidate the clinical profile and complex care needs of seriously ill adults with multiple chronic conditions and to highlight key differences among those with and without cancer at the end of life. Of the 213 (74.2%) older adults who met criteria for multiple chronic conditions (eg, 2 or more chronic conditions requiring regular care with limitations of daily living), 49% had a diagnosis of cancer. Hospice enrollment was operationalized as an indicator for severity of illness and allowed for the capture of complex care needs of those deemed to be nearing the end of life. Individuals with cancer had complex symptomatology with a higher prevalence of nausea, drowsiness, and poor appetite and end of life and lower hospice enrollment. Individuals with multiple chronic conditions without cancer had lower functional status, greater number of medications, and higher hospice enrollment. The care of seriously ill older adults with multiple chronic conditions requires tailored approaches to improve outcomes and quality of care across health care settings, particularly at the end of life.