CONTEXT: Hospice care focuses on improving the quality of end-of-life care and respecting patients' preferences regarding end-of-life treatment. The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the utilization of hospice services is unknown.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the utilization of hospice care services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: All patients (n = 19,900) cared for at Taipei City Hospital from January 2019 to April 2020 were divided into three time points: January-April 2019 (before COVID-19), May-December 2019 (interim), and January-April 2020 (during COVID-19). This cohort study compared the monthly utilization of hospice services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESULTS: There was no significant difference in hospice home visits (194 vs. 184; P = 0.686) and new enrollments (15 vs. 14; P = 0.743) to hospice home care before and during the pandemic. However, the bed occupancy rate in hospice units in the hospital was significantly reduced from 66.2% before the pandemic to 37.4% during the pandemic (P = 0.029), whereas that in non-hospice units had a non-significant decrease from 81.6% before the pandemic to 71.8% during the pandemic (P = 0.086). During the pandemic, the number of inpatient days in hospice units was affected more severely than in non-hospice units (-42.4% vs.-10.9%; P = 0.029).
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that hospice home care services were maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the utilization of hospice inpatient care services reduced. Home care for hospice patients is an essential component of palliative care during a pandemic.
Children are seeing rapid changes to their routines and facing an unpredictable future. Palliative care teams may consider expanding their communication training and skill sets to help families consider caring ways to communicate with their children and grandchildren about the coronavirus. Palliative care teams are wise to encourage families to ground their communication with children on key values: honesty and trust, self-compassion, safety, sensitivity, connection, preparedness, community building, recognition of death as a part of the life cycle, and legacy.
CONTEXT: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is stressing health care systems throughout the world. Significant numbers of patients are being admitted to the hospital with severe illness, often in the setting of advanced age and underlying comorbidities. Therefore, palliative care is an important part of the response to this pandemic. The Seattle area and UW Medicine have been on the forefront of the pandemic in the U.S.
METHODS: UW Medicine developed a strategy to implement a palliative care response for a multihospital health care system that incorporates conventional capacity, contingency capacity, and crisis capacity. The strategy was developed by our palliative care programs with input from the health care system leadership.
RESULTS: In this publication, we share our multifaceted strategy to implement high-quality palliative care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that incorporates conventional, contingency, and crisis capacity and focuses on the areas of the hospital caring for the most patients: the emergency department, intensive care units, and acute care services. The strategy focuses on key content areas, including identifying and addressing goals of care, addressing moderate and severe symptoms, and supporting family members.
CONCLUSION: Strategy planning for delivery of high-quality palliative care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important area of need for our health care systems. We share our experiences of developing such a strategy to help other institutions conduct and adapt such strategies more quickly.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presents unique challenges to those who work with the seriously ill population, including both health care providers and the family caregivers providing unpaid care. We rely on this lay workforce as health care routinely transitions care to the home, and now more than ever, we are depending on them in the current pandemic. As palliative care and other health care providers become overwhelmed with patients critically ill with COVID-19, and routine care becomes delayed, we have a charge to recognize and work with family caregivers. Our commentary provides rationale for the need to focus on family caregivers and key considerations for how to include them in pandemic clinical decision making.
We propose that the palliative care team response will occur in two ways: first, communication and second, symptom management. Our experience with discussing goals of care with the family of a COVID-positive patient highlighted some expected and unexpected challenges. We describe these challenges along with recommendations for approaching these conversations. We also propose a framework for proactively mobilizing the palliative care workforce to aggressively address goals of care in all patients, with the aim of reducing the need for rationing of resources.
Specialist palliative care services (SPCS) have a vital role to play in the global coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Core expertise in complex symptom management, decision making in uncertainty, advocacy and education, and ensuring a compassionate response are essential, and SPCS are well positioned to take a proactive approach in crisis management planning. SPCS resource capacity is likely to be overwhelmed, and consideration needs to be given to empowering and supporting high-quality primary palliative care in all care locations. Our local SPCS have developed a Palliative Care Pandemic Pack to disseminate succinct and specific information, guidance, and resources designed to enable the rapid upskilling of nonspecialist clinicians needing to provide palliative care. It may be a useful tool for our SPCS colleagues to adapt as we face this global challenge collaboratively.
Aging adults (65+) with disability are especially vulnerable to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and on contracting, they are a cohort most likely to require palliative care. Therefore, it is very important that health services-particularly health services providing palliative care-are proximately available. Treating the Melbourne metropolitan area as a case study, a spatial analysis was conducted to clarify priority areas with a significantly high percentage and number of aging adults (65+) with disability and high barriers to accessing primary health services. Afterward, travel times from priority areas to palliative medicine and hospital services were calculated. The geographic dispersion of areas with people vulnerable to COVID-19 with poor access to palliative care and health services is clarified. Unique methods of health service delivery are required to ensure that vulnerable populations in underserviced metropolitan areas receive prompt and adequate care. The spatial methodology used can be implemented in different contexts to support evidence-based COVID-19 and pandemic palliative care service decisions.
BACKGROUND: With the highest number of cases in the world as of April 13, 2020, New York City (NYC) became the epicenter of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The data regarding palliative team involvement in patients with COVID-19, however, remains scarce. We aimed to investigate outcomes of palliative team involvement for the patients with COVID-19 in NYC.
METHODS: Consecutive 225 patients with confirmed COVID-19 requiring hospitalization in our urban academic medical center in NYC were analyzed. Patients were divided into 2 groups, those with a palliative care consult (palliative group: 14.2% [n = 32]) versus those with no palliative care consult (no palliative group: 85.8% [n = 193]).
RESULTS: The palliative group was older and had more comorbidities. During the hospital course, the palliative group had more intensive care unit stays, rapid response team activations, and more use of vasopressors (P < .05). Patients with palliative care had higher rates of invasive mechanical ventilation than those without (46.9% vs 10.4%, P < .001). Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was performed in 12 patients (6.5% vs 5.2%, P = .77) and death rate was 100% in both subsets. Notably, initial code status was not different between the 2 groups, however, code status at discharge was significantly different between them (P < .001). The rate of full code decreased by 70% in the palliative group and by 47.5% in the no palliative care group from admission to the time of death.
CONCLUSIONS: Critically ill patients hospitalized for COVID-19 benefit from palliative team consults by helping to clarify advanced directives and minimize futile resuscitative efforts.
OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic is a care crisis of unknown duration which has seemingly not yet reached its peak in many countries. A significant number of elderly and frail people and those with underlying serious illness will continue to develop severe forms of the COVID-19 infection. Most of them are not eligible for intensive care treatment but can still expect palliative care - in many cases provided by a Hospital Palliative Care Team (HPCT). Several teams have already gained experience in caring for these patients and their families, others are preparing for it.
METHOD: We report on a COVID-19 patient with pre-existing acute myeloid leukemia who was looked after by a HPCT until death. We discuss the challenges and difficulties while caring for COVID-19-positive palliative patients in a non-ICU setting.
RESULTS: Hospitalization of the patient in an isolation ward caused an enormous burden for the dying patient and his family. Symptom control was particularly difficult because of rapid deteriorating dyspnea and the scarce presence of medical staff in the patient's room.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: COVID-19 patients who are not eligible for ICU treatment may have a particularly high need for palliative care. Since beds in specialist palliative care units are limited, the HPCT should be prepared to care for these patients. They may offer support in decision-making, optimize symptom control, and provide psychosocial care for patients and their families. Visiting restrictions aimed to protect the general public must be weighted against the patient's and family's suffering.
While the strict regulations in hospital in Hong Kong effectively controlled the
outbreaks of COVID-19, they caused challenges in the care of our hospitalized cancer patients. Four clinical cases based on true encounter during the COVID-19 period with mitigations were summarised. These four cases reflected the unanticipated impacts of the extreme measures and
highlighted the deficiencies of our existing system. The pandemics offered us opportunities to explore new ways to improve our cancer care, especially concerning the psychological support to both patients and caretakers.
The COVID-19 crisis has amplified the importance of palliative care to countless patients suffering with and dying from this disease, as well as to their families, communities, and the worldwide cadre of overburdened healthcare workers. Particularly urgent is the need for spiritual care specialists and generalists to address spiritual suffering given the degree of isolation, loneliness, and vulnerability caused by this pandemic. Although spiritual care has long been recognized as one of the domains of quality palliative care, it is often not fully integrated into practice. All disciplines are ultimately responsible for ensuring spiritual care is prioritized to improve quality of life and the experience of patients and families facing spiritual emergencies amid the complex life-and-death scenarios inherent to COVID-19. Although the pandemic has revealed serious fault lines in many healthcare domains, it has also underscored the need to recommit to spiritual care as an essential component of whole-person palliative care.
I had been on the phone with Madeleine's mother for fifteen minutes, and she had sobbed throughout. She pleaded with me, "You won't even let our family visit her together. If you really want to help my daughter, you will let us stay with her." Madeleine, who was twenty-four years old, was dying of end-stage acute myeloid leukemia and was intubated in one of our intensive care units. Her intensivist had requested a clinical ethics consultation for potentially inappropriate medical treatment-in my world of clinical ethics consultation, routine stuff. Except that, in March 2020, nothing was routine anymore. The Covid-19 pandemic calls for creative thinking about ad hoc and post hoc bereavement efforts, and it may result in efforts to revise existing accounts of what constitutes a good death in order to accommodate patients' and families' experiences at the end of life during a pandemic.
In a field that strives to care for patients and families together, what can palliative care clinicians do when patients' families are physically absent? The Covid-19 pandemic has put both literal and figurative walls between health care professionals and families. How health care workers respond to these disconnections might have a lasting impact on patients, on families, and on our practice. Recently, I saw this in the case of a patient our palliative care team was consulted to see. Mr. B was minimally responsive and dying from multisystem organ failure of unclear etiology. As in other cases during this pandemic, our team became a facilitator of interaction between the patient and the physically absent family, seeing an intimacy we normally would not, in this case, by being present while our intern held the phone to Mr. B's ear for an end-of-life call from his wife, son, and daughter. Such moments force us clinicians to be even more present for our families and patients, and they allow us to bear witness to the strength and sadness and love that we might otherwise miss.
It is April 18th, 2020. I am writing this piece in New York City, the current world epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, listening to the most recent updates on the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19. In the city where I was born, educated, raised a family, live and made a career in Psychiatric Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In New York City alone, there are now at least 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close to 14,000 deaths due to the virus. About 1,300 patients were admitted to the hospital here today, and 507 people died here of COVID-19 today. But this is a global pandemic affecting more than 185 countries, a global tragedy. 2.4 million COVID-19 cases reported worldwide, 165,000 deaths.
The unprecedented coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has challenged health care systems in different ways. In the United Kingdom, various subspecialties are deployed to the wards to help medical workforce in the frontlines, with dermatologists helping with general medical wards and on-calls. We present a case of COVID-19–related urticaria manifesting in a palliative setting and responding well to systemic antihistamine. This pandemic has highlighted a new subspecialty that should be explored and researched—palliative dermatology—bridging elements of dermatology with the concepts of palliative medicine. As dermatologists, we should be in the position to help with the last stages of a patient’s journey.
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.
In palliative care, we strive to provide care to the whole patient. When we think about the whole patient, we include the people who are important in our patients' lives. Our New York City-based palliative care team has found that caring for patients' loved ones has proven to be an even more important aspect of the care we have provided during the COVID epidemic. In this article, we describe the multicomponenet interdisciplinary interventions we have implemented to enhance our ability to create a therapeutic alliance with family members and facilitate the provision of goal concordant care to patients with COVID during this extremely difficult time.
The large scale and rapid spread of the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way hospitals and other health services operate. Opportunities for patient-centered decision-making at the end of life are being jeopardized by a scarcity of health system resources. In response, the traditional doctor-initiated advanced care planning (ACP) for critical illness may also need to be readjusted. We propose nurse-led and allied health-led ACP discussions to ensure patient and family inclusion and understanding of the disease prognosis, prevention of overtreatment, and potential outcomes in crisis times. We highlight known barriers and list enablers, long-term and short-term opportunities to assist in the culture change.
Family meetings are fundamental to the practice of palliative medicine and serve as a cornerstone of intervention on the inpatient palliative care consultation service. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the structure and process of in-patient family meetings, due to necessary but restrictive visitor policies that did not allow families to be present in the hospital. We describe implementation of telemedicine to facilitate electronic family (e-family) meetings to facilitate in-patient palliative care. Of 67 scheduled meetings and performed by the palliative care service, only 2 meetings were aborted for a 97% success rate of scheduled meetings occurring. On a five-point Likert-type scale, the average clinician rating of the e-family meeting overall quality was 3.18 (SD, 0.96). Of the 10 unique family participants that agreed to be interviewed, their overall ratings of the e-family meetings were high. Over 80% of respondent families participants reported that they agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to ask all of their questions, felt comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings with the clinical team, felt like they understood the care their loved one received, and that the virtual family meeting helped them trust the clinical team. Of patients who were able to communicate 50% of family respondents reported that the e-family meeting helped them understand their loved one’s thoughts and wishes.