Researchers of the Dartmouth Atlas Project find too many older people continue to receive medical treatments that don't meet established guidelines or, often, their own goals.
Breast and prostate cancer screenings are among preventive measures that may not benefit seniors, the study suggests.
Researchers found that 17 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who died were enrolled in hospice only during the last three days of life. Although Medicare will approve hospice benefits, when the physician certifies someone is expected to live for no more than six-months.
"It's interesting, most patients want to do something else, and a lot of families push them," said medical oncologist Phyllis Stephenson, M.D. of the Friendship Center for Healthy Aging. "But, then there are patients who say we've had enough, and you have to listen to the patient."
The report found that six percent of Medicare beneficiaries with dementia received feeding tubes in their last six months of life in 2012 -- although it doesn't prolong their lives. And, people spent an average of nearly four days in intensive care during the last six months of life, according to the study. Those numbers are trending upward.