End-of-life care and planning Research

Advance care planning among older Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic: a focus on sexual orientation


Brian de Vries, Gloria Gutman, Robert Beringer, Paneet Gill, Helena Daudt


June 2021


Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to death and hardship around the world, and increased popular discourse about end-of-life circumstances and conditions. The extent to which this discourse and related pandemic experiences have precipitated advance care planning (ACP) activities was the focus of this study with a particular emphasis on sexual orientation.

Methods: A large, national online survey was conducted between 10 August and 10 October 2020 in Canada. The final sample of 3923 persons aged 55 and older was recruited using social media, direct email, and Facebook advertising and in conjunction with community groups. Women comprised almost 78% of the sample; just more than 7% of the sample identified as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB). Measures included demographic variables and a series of questions on ACP, including documents and discussions undertaken prior to the pandemic and since its onset.

Results: Descriptive analyses revealed few gender or sexual orientation differences on documents and discussions prior to the pandemic; since its onset, LGB persons have completed or initiated wills, powers of attorney, advance directives, representation agreements, and have engaged in ACP discussions in greater proportion than heterosexuals. Logistic regressions reveal the increased likelihood of pre-pandemic ACP engagement by age, gender (women), and education; since the pandemic onset, gender, education, and sexual orientation were predictive of greater ACP engagement. Care discussions were more likely undertaken by women and LGB persons since the pandemic most often with spouses, family, and friends, especially among LGB persons.

Discussion: Gender roles and previous pandemic experiences (HIV/AIDS, in particular) are implicated in this pattern of results; opportunities for educational interventions are considered


de Vries, B., Gutman, G., Beringer, R., Gill, P., & Daudt, H. (2021). Advance care planning among older Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic: a focus on sexual orientation. Palliative care and social practice, 15, 26323524211019056.

Open Access