Cause of death is an important outcome in end-of-life (EOL) research. However, difficulties in assigning cause of death have been well documented. We compared causes of death in national death registrations with those reported in EOL interviews. Data were from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older. The kappa agreement statistic was estimated to assess the level of agreement between two methods: cause of death reported in EOL interviews and those recorded in official death registrations. There was moderate agreement between underlying cause of death recorded on death certificates and those reported in EOL interviews. Discrepancies in reporting in EOL interviews were systematic with better agreement found among younger decedents and where the EOL informant was the decedents' partner/spouse. We have shown that EOL interviews may have limited utility if the main goal is to understand the predictors and antecedents of different causes of death.
Objective: We examined whether older adults' health and well-being during their final year of life predicts end-of-life (EOL) quality of life (QOL) and quality of care (QOC).
Methods: Using data from deceased participants (n = 1125) in the 2011-2015 National Health and Aging Trends Study, we performed latent class analysis to identify profiles of health and well-being, and we examined the association between these classes and EOL QOL and QOC.
Results: Four classes were identified: healthy/happy (20%), frail/happy (37%), cognitively impaired/moderately distressed (27%), and highly impaired/highly distressed (16%). Persons in the highly impaired/highly distressed class showed a poorer QOL at the EOL, whereas those in the healthy/happy class reported a lower level of QOC at the EOL.
Discussion: The benefits of maintaining health and well-being often carry forward to EOL. Older adults with high impairment and distress merit greater attention such as assuring care and advance care plans.
BACKGROUND: Palliative needs in older patients are often not timely identified. The Surprise Question (SQ) 'would I be surprised if this patient died in the next year?' is a well-researched tool that could aid in this effort. Most studies thus far involved physicians or specialist nurses, however the predictive value of the SQ when used by general nurses caring for hospitalized older patients is unknown.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the predictive value of the SQ when used by general nurses and student nurses, in determining one year mortality in acutely hospitalized older patients.
DESIGN: Observational cohort study with an one year follow-up.
SETTING: One academic and one regional hospital in the Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients >=70 years acutely hospitalized for at least 48 hours.
METHODS: Registered nurses and student nurses answered the SQ with 'No' (a positive SQ), 'Yes' or 'Don't know'. Data on student nurses was analysed separately. The sensitivity, specificity, negative- and positive predictive values were calculated. Furthermore, logistic regression was performed to determine the odds of death.
RESULTS: 66 registered nurses answered the SQ for 252 patients of whom 77 (30.6%) died in the year after inclusion. Respectively, 44%, 14% and 22% died within the 'No', 'Yes' and 'Don't know' group. 85% of patients who died during admission or in the first three months post-discharge were identified. The sensitivity and specificity were 76.7% and 56.6%. The positive and negative predictive values were 43.7% and 84.6 %. Compared to persons in whom the SQ was answered with yes, a no answer was associated with an 4.7 times increased odds of dying in the next 12 months (odds ratio 4.71, 95% CI 2.43-9.12, p<0.001). Additionally, 20 student nurses answered the SQ about 73 patients; sensitivity and specificity were 46.7% and 72.1%, with a positive and negative predictive value of 53.8% and 66.0% respectively.
CONCLUSION: The usability of the Surprise Question in predicting 12-month mortality in older acutely admitted patients is limited, due to the high false positive rate. The SQ when used by non-specialized nurses identifies vulnerable patients with an increased mortality risk and can be used as a first step in assessing a patients' palliative needs, but has limited use as a single criterion for referral to specialist palliative care.
BACKGROUND: Innovative service models to facilitate end-of-life care for older people may be required to enable and bolster networks of care. The aim of this study was to understand how and why a new charitably funded service model of end-of-life care impacts upon the lives of older people.
METHODS: A multiple exploratory qualitative case study research strategy. Cases were 3 sites providing a new end-oflife service model for older people. The services were provided in community settings, primarily providing support in peoples own homes. Study participants included the older people receiving the end-of-life care service, their informal carers, staff providing care within the service and other stakeholders. Data collection included individual interviews with older people and informal carers at 2 time points, focus group interviews with staff and local stakeholders, nonparticipant observation of meetings, and a final cross-case deliberative panel discussion workshop. Framework analysis facilitated analysis within and across cases.
RESULTS: Twenty-three service users and 5 informal carers participated in individual interviews across the cases. Two focus groups were held with an additional 12 participants, and 19 people attended the deliberative panel workshop. Important elements contributing to the experience and impacts of the service included organisation, where services felt they were 'outsiders,' the focus of the services and their flexible approach; and the impacts particularly in enriching relationships and improving mental health.
CONCLUSION: These end-of-life care service models operated in a space between the healthcare system and the person's life world. This meant there could be ambiguity around their services, where they occupied a liminal, but important, space. These services are potentially important to older people, but should not be overly constrained or they may lose the very flexibility that enables them to have impact.
BACKGROUND: In recent years the use of time to death (TTD) variables in the modeling of individual health expenditures has been of interest to health economics researchers. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of age and TTD on hospital inpatient expenditure (HIE).
METHODS: We used a claims database from Iran Health Insurance Organization of Tehran city that includes considerable proportion of Tehran residents and contains information on insured individuals' HIE. We included HIE of all insured decedents (30 to 90 years old) who died during March 2013 and March 2014 (n=1018). No sampling was required. According to the decedents' date of death, we extracted their last 24 months HIE. The period of time March 30, 2011 until March 30, 2014 (3 years) was used to guarantee a full 24 months of observations for decedents. A two-part econometric model was employed to investigate the effect of age, TTD, and some demographic variables on probability and conditional amount of individuals' hospital expenditure. Stata software (version 16.0) was used for data processing and analysis.
RESULTS: Our results demonstrated that the month-based TTDs especially near months before death of decedents (TTD1 to TTD10) significantly affected both probability and conditional amount of HIE. One month before death incurred more HIE than the rest of the months. A further interesting finding is that after including TTD, age variable as a conditional driver of HIE loses its direct effect on decedents' HIE, but age TTD interaction effect on HIE is still positive and statistically significant.
CONCLUSION: The results confirm that TTD as a proxy of mortality indicator has a considerable effect on decedents' HIE. The age variable has not directly affected decedents' HIE but indirectly and through its interaction with TTD has a statistically significant effect on HIE. In addition to age, policy-makers should consider TTD to make better predictions of future HIE.
In few periods in human history have bereavement and grief been on so many people's minds as they are today. As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ravages the world, we have seen many perish in a short time. Many have died alone because of requirements for physical distancing. Even more will succumb as COVID-19 continues to spread. Moreover, deaths from other causes, numbering over 50 million annually, are also happening amid physical distancing and other COVID-19-related challenges. The pandemic is affecting the way terminally ill patients are being cared for, when and how people are dying of other causes, and how bodies are being handled and bereavement rituals performed. The bereaved are required to grieve without the support of usual social and cultural rituals. Grieving is further encumbered by cascading life stressors deriving from policies needed to mitigate the pandemic. Though we are often heartened by human resilience in response to death and other hardships, for some, the burden of this pandemic will be too much. Among other mental health problems, we will likely see an increase in prolonged grief disorder. In this commentary, we review the new diagnosis of prolonged grief disorder and outline why we might anticipate increased rates of this condition on the heels of COVID-19, especially among older persons. We suggest ways we might mitigate this emerging problem.
Objectives: We evaluated the trend of end-of-life healthcare utilization and life-sustaining interventions for older adults with dementia 3 to 4 years after the change in hospice policy.
Design: Population-based retrospective cohort study.
Setting and participants: we used the National Health Insurance Research database of enrolled patients =65 years of age diagnosed with dementia who died in 2010-2013 (n = 2062).
Methods: Aggressive treatments, including healthcare utilization and life-sustaining interventions, were recorded within 6 months of death. Aggressive healthcare utilization included =1 emergency department visits, =1 hospitalizations, >14 days of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death in an acute care hospital. Life-sustaining interventions were enteral tube, artificial nutrition, blood transfusion, hemodialysis, invasive ventilation, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Results: Compared with 2010 2012, 2013 rates significantly decreased for all measures (P < .001). Composite scores of healthcare utilization and life-sustaining treatments in 2013 were significantly lower than for 2010 2012, after controlling for confounding variables (both P < .001).
Conclusions and implications: Older patients with dementia had a trend of reduced healthcare utilization and fewer life-sustaining treatments near the end of life from 2010 to 2013 after a policy change.
Context: Digital health offers innovative mechanisms to engage in palliative care, yet digital systems are typically designed for individual users, rather than integrating the patient’s caregiving “social convoy” (i.e. family members, friends, neighbors, formal caregiving supports) to maximize benefit. As older adults with serious illness increasingly rely on the support of others, there is a need to foster effective integration of the social convoy in digitally supported palliative care.
Objectives: Conduct a qualitative study examining patient, social convoy, and health care provider perspectives on digital health for palliative care to inform the design of future digital solutions for older adults with serious illness and their social convoy.
Methods: Grounded theory approach using semi-structured interviews (N=81) with interprofessional health care providers, older adults with serious illness, and their social convoy participants at home, clinic, or Zoom. Interviews were conducted using question guides relevant to the participant group and audio recorded for verbatim transcription. Two coders lead the inductive analysis using open and axial coding.
Results: Thematic results aligned with the human centered design framework, which is a participatory approach to the design process that incorporates multiple user stakeholders to develop health solutions. The human centered design process and corresponding theme included: (1) Empathy: Patient, Caregiver, and Provider Experience reports participants’ experience with managing serious illness, caregiving, social support, and technology use. (2) Define: Reactions to Evidence-Based Care Concepts and Barriers illustrates participants’ perspectives on the domains of palliative care ranging from symptom management to psychosocial-spiritual care. (3) Ideation: Desired Features reports participant recommendations for designing digital health tools for palliative care domains.
Conclusion: Digital health provides an opportunity to expand the reach of geriatric palliative care interventions. This paper documents human centered preferences of geriatric palliative care digital health to ensure technologies are relevant and meaningful to health care providers, patients, and the caregiving social convoy.
Population ageing has rapidly increased the number of people requiring end-of-life care across the globe. Governments have responded by promoting end-of-life in the community. Partly as a consequence, older spouses are frequently providing for their partner’s end-of-life care at home, despite potentially facing their own health issues. While there is an emerging literature on young-old caregivers, less is known about spouse carers over 75 who are likely to face specific challenges associated with their advanced age and relationship status. The aim of this review, therefore, is to identify and synthesise the literature concerning the experiences of caregiver’s aged 75 and over whose partner is approaching end-of-life. We conducted a mixed-method systematic review and narrative synthesis of the empirical literature published between 1985 and May 2019, identified from six databases: Medline, PsychINFO, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Embase, Sociological Abstracts and Social Service Abstracts. Hand searching and reference checking were also conducted. Gough’s Weight of Evidence and Morgan’s Feminist Quality Appraisal tool used to determine the quality of papers. From the initial 7819 titles, 10 qualitative studies and 9 quantitative studies were included. We identified three themes: 1) “Embodied impact of care” whereby caring was found to negatively impact carers physical and psychological health, with adverse effects continuing into bereavement; 2) “Caregiving spouse’s conceptualisation of their role” in which caregiver’s navigated their self and marriage identities in relation to their partner’s condition and expectations about gender and place; 3) “Learning to care” which involved learning new skills and ways of coping to remain able to provide care. We identified a recent up-surge in published papers about very old spousal caregivers, which now comprise a small, medium-quality evidence base. This review outlines a range of potential lines of inquiry for future research including further clarification of the impact of caregiving on the likelihood of mortality, the incidence of men and women providing end-of-life care amongst this age group, and the role of anticipatory grief in shaping their perceptions of their relationship and their own longevity.
Aim: To determine if frailty is associated with poor outcome following in-hospital cardiac arrest; to find if there is a “frailty threshold” beyond which cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) becomes futile.
Methods: Retrospective review of patients aged over 60 years who received CPR between May 2017 and December 2018, in a tertiary referral hospital, which does not provide primary coronary revascularisation. Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) and Charlson Comorbidity Index were retrospectively assigned.
Results: Data for 90 patients were analysed, the median age was 77 (IQR 70-83); 71% were male; 44% were frail (CFS > 4). Frailty was predictive of in-hospital mortality independent of age, comorbidity and cardiac arrest rhythm (OR 2.789 95% CI 1.145–6.795). No frail patients (CFS > 4) survived to hospital discharge, regardless of cardiac arrest rhythm, whilst 13 (26%) of the non-frail (CFS = 4) patients survived to hospital discharge. Of the 13 survivors (Age 72; range 61–86), 12 were alive at 1 year and had a good neurological outcome, the outcome for the remaining patient was unknown.
Conclusion: Frail patients are unlikely to survive to hospital discharge following in-hospital cardiac arrest, these results may facilitate clinical decision making regarding whether CPR may be considered futile. The Clinical Frailty Scale is a simple bedside assessment that can provide invaluable information when considering treatment escalation plans, as it becomes more widespread, larger scale observations using prospective assessments of frailty may become feasible.
Objectives: Advance care planning (ACP) typically comprises formal preparations (i.e., living will and/or durable power of attorney for health care) and informal discussions with family members and health care providers. However, some people complete formal documents without discussing them with others. If they become incapacitated, their appointed decision makers may lack guidance on how to interpret or enact their formal wishes. We document the prevalence and correlates of this partial approach to ACP.
Method: Using multinomial logistic regression models and data from a U.S. sample of 4,836 older adults in the 2018 wave of the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS), this brief report evaluated associations between social integration indicators and the odds of completing (a) both discussions and formal plans (two-pronged ACP), (b) discussions only, (c) no ACP, and (d) formal ACP only (reference category). We adjust for demographic and health characteristics established as correlates of ACP.
Results: A minority (15%) of NHATS participants reported formal plans without having discussed them. Indicators of social isolation (e.g., smaller social networks and fewer social activities) increased the odds of engaging in formal planning only compared to two-pronged ACP. Socioeconomic disadvantage and probable dementia reduced the odds of having end-of-life conversations, whether as one’s only preparation or in tandem with formal preparations.
Discussion: Socially isolated persons are especially likely to do formal planning only, which is considered less effective than two-pronged ACP. Health care professionals should recognize that older adults with few kin may require additional support and guidance when doing ACP.
Patient portals can play an innovative role in facilitating advanced care planning (ACP) and documenting advance directives (ADs) among older adults with multiple chronic conditions. The objective of this qualitative sub-study was to (1) understand older adults’ use of an ACP patient portal section and (2) obtain user-design input on AD documentation features. Although some older adults may be reluctant, participants reported likely to use a portal for ADs with proper portal design and support.
Objective: To test the effectiveness of theoretically driven role model video stories in improving knowledge of palliative care among a diverse sample of older adults.
Method: We developed three 3–4 min long theoretically driven role model video stories. We then recruited cognitively intact, English-speaking adults aged 50 and older from senior centers, assisted living, and other community-based sites in the greater Los Angeles area. Using a pretest–posttest study design, we surveyed participants using the 13-item Palliative Care Knowledge Scale (PaCKS) and also asked participants about their intentions to enroll in palliative care should the need arise. Participants first completed the pretest, viewed the three videos, then completed the posttest comprised of the same set of questions.
Results: PaCKS score improved from an average of 4.5 at baseline to 10.0 following video screening (t(126) = 12.0, p < 0.001). Intentions to enroll oneself or a family member in palliative care rose by 103% ( 2 = 7.8, p < 0.01) and 110% ( 2 = 7.5, p < 0.01), respectively. Regression analysis revealed that participants who believed the role models are real people (ß = 2.6, SE = 1.2, p < 0.05) significantly predicted higher change in PaCKS score. Conversely, participants with prior knowledge of, or experience with, palliative care (ß = -5.9, SE = 0.8, p < 0.001), non-whites (ß = -3.6, SE = 0.9, p < 0.001), and widows (ß = -2.9, SE = 1.1, p < 0.01) significantly predicted lower changes in PaCKS score.
Significance of results: This study suggests that theoretically driven role model video stories may be an effective strategy to improve palliative care knowledge. Role model video stories of diverse palliative care patients provide one way to mitigate health literacy barriers to palliative care knowledge.
Background: Advance care planning (ACP) conversations are an important intervention to provide care consistent with patient goals near the end of life. The emergency department (ED) could serve as an important time and location for these conversations.
Objectives: To determine the feasibility of an ED-based, brief negotiated interview (BNI) to stimulate ACP conversations among seriously ill older adults.
Methods: We conducted a pre/postintervention study in the ED of an urban, tertiary care, academic medical center. From November 2017 to May 2019, we prospectively enrolled adults =65 years of age with serious illness. Trained clinicians conducted the intervention. We measured patients' ACP engagement at baseline and follow-up (3 ± 1 weeks) and reviewed electronic medical record documentation of ACP (e.g., medical order for life-sustaining treatment [MOLST]).
Results: We enrolled 51 patients (mean age = 71; SD 12), 41% were female, and 51% of patients had metastatic cancer. Median duration of the intervention was 11.8 minutes; few (6%) of the interventions were interrupted. We completed follow-up for 61% of participants. Patients' self-reported ACP engagement increased from 3.0 to 3.7 out of 5 after the intervention (p < 0.01). Electronic documentation of health care proxy forms increased (75%–94%, n = 48) as did MOLST (0%–19%, n = 48) during the six months after the ED visit.
Conclusion: A novel, ED-based, BNI intervention to stimulate ACP conversations for seriously ill older adults is feasible and may improve ACP engagement and documentation.
Background: Ageist perceptions continue to constrain the choices available to older adults in terms of their sexual expression.
Objective: This paper discusses the last stage of life, when older adults may be progressing through a terminal disease, dying and in palliative care environments. Are they (or is anyone, at any age) interested in remaining intimate when they are dying? If yes, how is this interest accepted/facilitated within such environments?.
Results: This article does not claim to be definitive, but provides a broad, preliminary sketch of this neglected research area. It suggests that, for many, sexual expression and intimate connection continue to be important until the very end of the lifespan.
Conclusions: As such, this important topic deserves recognition as part of an overall response to sexuality and ageing by policy makers and health professionals. Its importance will only become more significant due to greater longevity and population ageing.
Background: The Scottish Government’s vision for older people is that ‘Older people are valued as an asset; their voices are heard and they are supported to enjoy full and positive lives.’ In the health and social care setting in Scotland it is increasingly recognised that there is a need for careful planning of care for older patients with complex comorbidities, and that this should involve the patient where possible via a process of shared decision making (SDM).
Aim: To establish what future planning for healthcare decision making and end-of-life care was undertaken in the care of the older patients in a secondary care facility, and how much they participate in this process.
Method: An audit was conducted across four wards in the care of the older patient setting in a hospital for older patients in Scotland. Over a 2-week period, all patients’ charts (n = 82) were reviewed, and evidence was examined on whether the following documents were in place: a do not resuscitate order; an escalation of medical care plan; and an assessment of capacity/incapacity.
Results: The majority of patients (55%) had a resuscitation plan in place. An Incapacity Statement was also in place for the majority of patients who required it (90%). The escalation of medical care plan was only completed for a minority of patients, mainly those on the palliative care ward.
Conclusion: Plans for decision making around resuscitation were reasonably well developed. However, planning for other, more complex, future medical care needs was less well defined or explored with older patients.
Taiwan was the first Asian country to endorse patient autonomy, and advance care planning (ACP) has been highly promoted to improve quality of end-of-life (EOL). A mixed-methods pilot survey was conducted in northwestern Taiwan to investigate older community-dwelling residents’ (N = 52) ACP behavioral engagement, socio-demographical correlates, and their preferred intervention strategies. An interview subset (25%, N = 13) was purposely chosen for in-depth feedback and rationales behind their ACP decision-making. Rich information was obtained about perceived facilitators and inhibitors to initiate ACP and preferred intervention strategies in ACP programs. Consistent with previous literature, carefully designed ACP programs that incorporated family decision-making and met older subjects’ multiple needs would increase program acceptability and foster ACP engagement among older Taiwanese in the community setting.
Background: Advance care plans (ACP) provide patients the opportunity to communicate their goals and wishes for future care.
Local problem: A retrospective case note review of 50 inpatient deaths in 2017 confirmed a doctor had discussed expected death in 90%, however only 2% had an ACP.
Methods: Patients appropriate for ACP were identified on a single geriatrics ward. Interventions were implemented with monthly data collection. Patients with an ACP were followed prospectively. The initiatives were subsequently applied across six geriatrics wards.
Interventions: Interventions included improved identification of patients appropriate for ACP, doctor education and improved communication to general practitioners and healthcare providers.
Results: Before initiation of interventions on the pilot ward, ACP was completed for 38% of appropriate patients; this increased to a mean of 78.6% over 4 months post-interventions. During the pilot, 44 patients had an ACP. Of those discharged, 75% avoided readmission over the following 6 months. After applying the interventions across all geriatric wards, ACPs increased to a mean of 81.2% and was maintained 12 months later at 72%.
Conclusions: The initiatives formed a structure to promote the use of ACP on the wards. Care plans focused on individualising care and effective communication resulted in reduction of readmissions.
Background: As the mortality attributable to dementia-related diseases in the United States escalates, providing quality and equitable end-of-life care for dementia patients across care settings has become a major public health challenge. Previous research suggests that place of death may be an indicator of quality of end-of-life care. This study aims to examine the geographical variations and temporal trends in place of death of dementia decedents in the US and the relationships between place of death of dementia decedents and broad structural determinants.
Methods: Using nationwide death certificates between 2000 and 2014, we described the changes in place of death of dementia decedents across states and over time. Chi-square test for trend in proportions was used to test significant linear trend in the proportion of dementia decedents at difference places. State fixed effects models were estimated to assess the relationships between the proportion of dementia decedents at difference places and state-level factors, particularly availability of care facility resources and public health insurance expenditures.
Results: Dementia decedents were more likely to die at home and other places and less likely to die at institutional settings over the study period. There was wide inter-state and temporal variability in the proportions of deaths at different places. Among state-level factors, availability of nursing home beds was positively associated with rates of nursing home/long term care deaths and negatively associated with rates of home deaths. Medicaid expenditure on institutional long term supports and services was positively associated with rates of nursing home/long term care deaths and negatively associated with rates of home deaths. Medicaid expenditure on home and community based services, however, had a positive association with rates of home deaths.
Conclusions: There was a persistent shift in the place of death of dementia decedents from institutions to homes and communities. Increased investments in home and community based health services may help dementia patients to die at their homes. As home becomes an increasingly common place of death of dementia patients, it is critical to monitor the quality of end-of-life care at this setting.
Much of the scholarly literature sees death as a taboo topic for Chinese. To test this assumption, this study held seven focus groups in the Greater Toronto Area in 2017. It found that the majority of the older Chinese immigrant participants talked about death freely using either the word death or a euphemism. They talked about various issues including medical treatment and end-of-life care, medical assistance in dying, death preparation, and so on. A small number did not talk about death, but it seemed their reluctance was related to anxiety or discomfort or simply reflected a choice of words. The study concludes death as taboo could be a myth, at least for older Chinese immigrants.