The combination of an ageing population with improving survival in malignant and non-malignant disease processes results in a growing cohort of patients with advanced or end-stage chronic diseases who require acute medical care. Emergency care has historically been stereotyped as the identification and treatment of acute life-threatening problems. Although palliative care may be considered to be new to the formal curriculum of emergency medicine, in many domains the ultrasound skillset of a physician in acute medical care can be efficaciously deployed the benefit of patients with both malignant and non-malignant disease processes that require palliative care in the full breadth of acute healthcare settings. In diagnostic domains (abdominal pain, urinary tract obstruction, dyspnoea, venous thromboembolism and musculoskeletal pain) and for specific intervention guidance (thoracentesis, paracentesis, venous access, regional anaesthesia and musculoskeletal interventions) we suggest that POCUS has the potential to streamline improve patient satisfaction, streamline diagnostic strategies, optimise patient length of stay, expedite timely symptomatic relief and reduce complications in this important patient population. POCUS is a mandatory competence in the European curriculum of internal medicine, and specific training programs which cover applications in the domains of palliative care in acute care settings are available. Supervision, quality assurance and appropriate documentation are required. We expect that as the availability of mobile units suitable for point of care applications increases, these applications should become standard of care in the acute management of patients who require palliative care.
Background: Hospital-based nurses can offer a unique perspective about factors that can contribute to a good end-of-life experience, including the location in which end-of-life care is delivered.
Objectives: To examine in a sample of hospital-based nurses, the location in which they personally would most and least prefer to be cared for at the end of life, and the reasons for these preferences.
Design: Questionnaire-based, cross-sectional study.
Setting and participants: 170 registered and enrolled nurses employed in acute care wards of three metropolitan hospitals in Australia between April 2016 and February 2017.
Results: Nurses would most prefer to be cared for at home (53%) or in a hospice/palliative care unit (41%) at the end-of-life. Being in a familiar environment and feeling like dying is a more normal process were the main reasons reported for choosing these settings. The main reasons given by nurses for choosing a hospice/palliative care unit were that being cared for at home may place a burden on family/friends and hinder appropriate symptom management. Nurses would least prefer being cared for in an emergency department (49%) due to a perceived lack of privacy and adverse impact on the family; and residential aged care facilities (25%) due to perceived suboptimal symptom management and reduced likelihood of wishes being respected.
Conclusion: Nurses in this study value familiarity of environment and normalising the dying process. The majority do not wish to burden their family and friends at the end of their lives. Important next steps in providing services that meet the needs of people facing the end of their lives include understanding how nurses' personal views may influence decision-making conversations with patients and families about location of care at the end-of-life, as well as determining the capacity of available services to meet patient and family needs.
Background: Delirium is a distressing neurocognitive disorder that is common among terminally ill individuals, although few studies have described its occurrence in the acute care setting among this population.
Aim: To describe the prevalence of delirium in patients admitted to acute care hospitals in Ontario, Canada, in their last year of life and identify factors associated with delirium.
Design: Population-based retrospective cohort study using linked health administrative data. Delirium was identified through diagnosis codes on hospitalization records.
Setting/participants: Ontario decedents (1 January 2014 to 31 December 2016) admitted to an acute care hospital in their last year of life, excluding individuals age of <18 years or >105 years at admission, those not eligible for the provincial health insurance plan between their hospitalization and death dates, and non-Ontario residents.
Results: Delirium was recorded as a diagnosis in 8.2% of hospitalizations. The frequency of delirium-related hospitalizations increased as death approached. Delirium prevalence was higher in patients with dementia (prevalence ratio: 1.43; 95% confidence interval: 1.36–1.50), frailty (prevalence ratio: 1.67; 95% confidence interval: 1.56–1.80), or organ failure–related cause of death (prevalence ratio: 1.23; 95% confidence interval: 1.16–1.31) and an opioid prescription (prevalence ratio: 1.17; 95% confidence interval: 1.12–1.21). Prevalence also varied by age, sex, chronic conditions, antipsychotic use, receipt of long-term care or home care, and hospitalization characteristics.
Conclusion: This study described the occurrence and timing of delirium in acute care hospitals in the last year of life and identified factors associated with delirium. These findings can be used to support delirium prevention and early detection in the hospital setting.
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.
Caring for dying patients is often a new experience for ICU residents. End-of-life and palliative training in medical schools is lacking. Many residents experience troublesome emotions during residency. Literature establishes that residents show lower well-being scores than similar populations. To make emotional wellness a priority for residents, monthly mandatory Palliative Care Rounds (PCR) were established in the ICU. The role of the Palliative Care Social Worker (PCSW) is central in planning and implementing PCR. Social workers have unique skills well-suited to this type of activity in an acute care setting. Residents present cases and the PCSW facilitates discussion to explore complex emotions helping residents process their feelings. Forty-five residents responded to a seven-item questionnaire, out of 70 potential resident respondents (64% response rate). Only 60% said they learned about end-of-life and its emotional aspects in medical school. Ninety-eight percent reported the PCR helped them be more aware of their feelings, and would recommend it to colleagues. Ninety-five percent said PCR are important for interns and residents to help them grow professionally and become better clinicians. Through the process of dissecting their emotions, PCR allows for personal and professional growth that improves residents’ ability to become empathic providers.
As the population of chronically ill, older adults increases, there is a growing need for palliative care. The Institute of Medicine recommends that health care providers have a basic competency in palliative care. However, the definition of basic palliative care in practice and providers' understanding of basic palliative care lack clarity. The purpose of this study was to describe nurses' perceptions of basic palliative care in the acute care setting. This was accomplished by conducting focus group and individual interviews. The major themes of helping families navigate chronic illness and empowering families and subthemes of being present, giving options, and advocating emerged from the analysis. Through education and role modeling, nurses helped families navigate illness and end-of-life experiences. Study findings describe acute care nurses' perceptions of basic palliative care and may help to identify the educational needs of nurses in order to provide basic palliative care for patients and their families in acute care settings.
PURPOSE: To determine whether the type of delivery system is associated with intensity of care at the end of life for Medicare beneficiaries with cancer.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: We used SEER registry data linked with Medicare claims to evaluate intensity of end-of-life care for patients who died of one of ten common cancers diagnosed from 2009 through 2014. Patients were categorized as receiving the majority of their care in an integrated delivery system, designated cancer center, health system that was both integrated and a certified cancer center, or health system that was neither. We evaluated adherence to seven nationally endorsed end-of-life quality measures using generalized linear models across four delivery system types.
RESULTS: Among 100,549 beneficiaries who died of cancer during the study interval, we identified only modest differences in intensity of end-of-life care across delivery system structures. Health systems with no cancer center or integrated affiliation demonstrated higher proportions of patients with multiple hospitalizations in the last 30 days of life (11.3%), death in an acute care setting (25.9%), and lack of hospice use in the last year of life (31.6%; all P < .001). Patients enrolled in hospice had lower intensity care across multiple end-of-life quality measures.
CONCLUSION: Intensity of care at the end of life for patients with cancer was higher at delivery systems with no integration or cancer focus. Maximal supportive care delivered through hospice may be one avenue to reduce high-intensity care at the end of life and may impact quality of care for patients dying from cancer.
Improving the end of life care experience of people dying in acute care has become a priority for our organization since 2016 with the launch of the "Quality Living and Dying Initiative." This initiative has three distinct foci. The first two areas of focus, advance care planning and standardized comfort measures, are well established while the third focus bereavement program remains in its early stages. Bereavement is recognized as an essential component along the continuum of palliative care. Despite this recognition, bereavement care is often lacking in hospital settings. This paper will describe a telephone bereavement initiative spearheaded by the Spiritual Care Team at our organization.
AIM: To systematically review qualitative studies exploring families' experiences of spiritual care at the end of life in acute hospital settings.
BACKGROUND: Although there is a widespread belief that the consideration of spiritual and religious needs is out-dated in the context of secularism, from a practical perspective patients and families appear to benefit from spiritual support at the end of life.
METHODS: Six key databases, CINAHL, Medline, EMBASE, Global Health Library, Web of Science, and Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts (ASSIA), were searched and three reviewers independently extracted the data and coded it into themes and subthemes. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) was used as a reporting framework.
RESULTS: Five main themes emerged: anticipating needs; honouring the family by honouring the patient; personal connection; lack of sensitivity and making space for religious & spiritual practices.
CONCLUSIONS: Families experiencing end of life care in acute hospital settings may benefit from spiritual care. While this can also be considered as fundamental care, understanding this through the lenses of spiritual care allows for the incorporation of religious and spiritual practices that many seek at this time, irrespective of their faith perspectives.
RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Although hospice care is well established internationally, many families experience end of life care in acute hospital settings. Nurses usually get to know families well during this time, however the demands of the clinical environment place restrictions on family care and the perception of lack of communication, limited support and/or limited sensitively can compound the families' suffering. Consideration of families' spiritual needs can help to support families during this time. Nurses are ideally placed for this and can anticipate and plan for patient and family needs in this regard, or refer to a specialist such as the Health Care Chaplain.
Background: There are significant policy imperatives to involve consumers at the outset of and throughout research. How best to achieve this in an authentic and meaningful way is elusive, particularly within the palliative care population.
Aim: To determine how best to engage people with palliative care needs and their families in co-designing a qualitative study to better understand how to improve care of the dying in the acute care setting.
Methods: A case study design informed this work, informed by pre-determined research questions that focused on consumers advising on participant experience within the research, rather than research methodology per se.
Findings: Eleven consumers contributed across five panel meetings. Analysis of documented feedback led to four key areas of protocol change: Getting the language in the recruitment materials and information and consent forms right; Developing a feasible and acceptable recruitment strategy; Opportunities to more clearly articulate the explicit value of this research for patients and families; Support strategies for participants.
Discussion: Authentic consumer engagement requires time and effort; however, the outcomes are well worth the invested time and energy. Key foci outlined within this case study to enhance authenticity included: collaboration; preferencing the consumer voice; adequate preparation to support consumer engagement; and openness to all feedback provided.
Conclusion: Co-designing research with consumers enabled the outcome to be feasible for implementation, without any modifications required. Ensuring relevance and consumer-centredness for the expanding palliative care evidence base is essential and can only be achieved through meaningful partnerships with consumer representatives.
Background: Internationally there is an increasing concern about the quality of end-of-life care (EoLC) provided in acute hospitals. More people are cared for at end of life and die in acute hospitals than in any other healthcare setting. This paper reports the views of bereaved relatives on the experience of care they and the person that died received during their last admission in two university adult acute tertiary hospitals.
Methods: Relatives of patients who died were invited to participate in a post-bereavement postal survey. An adapted version of VOICES (Views of Informal Carers - Evaluation of Services) questionnaire was used. VOICES MaJam has 36 closed questions and four open-ended questions. Data were gathered in three waves and analysed using SPSS and NVivo. 356 respondents completed the survey (46% response rate).
Results: The majority of respondents (87%: n = 303) rated the quality of care as outstanding, excellent or good during the last admission to hospital. The quality of care by nurses, doctors and other staff was highly rated. Overall, care needs were well met; however, findings identified areas of care which could be improved, including communication and the provision of emotional and spiritual support. In addition, relatives strongly endorsed the provision of EoLC in single occupancy rooms, the availability of family rooms on acute hospital wards and the provision of bereavement support.
Conclusions: This research provides a powerful snapshot in time into what works well and what could be improved in EoLC in acute hospitals. Findings are reported under several themes, including the overall quality of care, meeting care needs, communication, the hospital environment and support for relatives. Results indicate that improvements can be made that build on existing good practice that will enhance the experience of care for dying persons and their relatives. The study adds insights in relation to relative’s priorities for EoLC in acute hospitals and can advance care providers’, policy makers’ and educationalists’ priorities for service improvement.
Palliative care addresses the biopsychosocial and spiritual distress of people with critical and chronic illness. Depending on the trajectory of an illness, a social worker in an acute care setting may have a limited number of opportunities to engage in meaningful interaction with an emotionally distressed patient. The social worker is often faced with providing care to a patient who is having the dual experience of maintaining hope for medical improvement and anticipating loss. This article offers therapeutic practice skills needed by social workers to address the experience of anticipatory loss in an acute care setting. Brief psychodynamic and person-centered therapy, provided in combination, are highlighted as one method to explore a patient's feelings and wishes in the face of critical illness. Case-based vignettes illustrate how five open-ended questions help mitigate suffering and heighten a patient's sense of autonomy and self-worth.
Healthcare professionals have limited formal end-of-life care training despite the large proportion of hospital deaths. A retrospective review of 201 acute hospital deaths revealed 166 (82.6%) had documentation to suggest the patient was dying but this was performed late with a median time between documentation and death of 0.84 days. Furthermore, 132 (66%) patients received an intervention in the final 48 h of life. This highlights the need to improve the recognition and management of dying patients in acute hospitals.
Advanced heart failure therapies such as ventricular assist devices and home inotrope use are becoming more common. Technology advances as well as increased indications for use of such therapies is leading to a higher percentage of patients with end-stage heart failure receiving these therapies at end of life. We present a case of a young man with dilated cardiomyopathy who undergoes advanced cardiac care in the setting of progressively declining cardiac function. Our case outlines the importance of acute care, palliative care, and hospice services being coordinated prior to and during acute-care services to provide goal-concordant and expeditious care. With advancing medical therapies for heart disease, increased coordination and collaboration of services are needed, particularly between hospice and acute-care services.
BACKGROUND: Older adults prefer comfort over life-sustaining care. Decreased intensity of care is associated with improved quality of life at the end-of-life (EOL).
OBJECTIVES: This study explored the association between advance directives (ADs) and intensity of care in the acute care setting at the EOL for older adults.
METHODS: A retrospective, correlational study of older adult decedents (N = 496) was conducted at an academic medical center. Regression analyses explored the association between ADs and intensity of care.
RESULTS: Advance directives were not independently predictive of aggressive care but were independently associated with referrals to palliative care and hospice; however, effect sizes were small, and the timing of referrals was late.
CONCLUSION: The ineffectiveness of ADs to reduce aggressive care or promote timely referrals to palliative and hospice services, emphasizes persistent inadequacies related to EOL care. Research is needed to understand if this failure is provider-driven or a flaw in the documents themselves.
While terminal palliative care focuses primarily on the management of symptoms of immediate dying, early palliative care provides an opportunity for the patient and his loved ones to understand the trajectory of the illness, to receive support for coping with the diagnosis, increase the quality of decision-making to match the patients values and preferences. The emphasis is on realistic expectations of the outcome of treatment and timely anticipation of further disease course. The paper focuses on an overview of the evidence of palliative and supportive interventions, comparing the different trigger mechanisms for palliative intervention and presents the content of the intervention of the palliative team. The establishment and integration of the consultative palliative team in the tertiary hospital is described. An illustrative care report describes the goals of care conversation and its impact on advance care planning. Palliative care is widely accepted and recommended standard of high quality care for seriously ill patients. In the Czech Republic, it is necessary to extend its availability for patients hospitalized in acute care setting.
OBJECTIVES: In Singapore, the core curriculum for end-of-life (EOL) care used in nurse training courses is limited. Only 45% of nurses indicated familiarity with inpatient palliative care. Nurses who lack skills in palliative care may develop anxiety and negative attitudes towards caring for dying patients. We explored whether a two-day, multimodal EOL care workshop could reduce nurses' death anxiety and improve nurses' skills, knowledge, and attitude towards palliative care.
METHODS: Forty-five nurses participated in the workshop. At baseline before and at six weeks after, a 20-item knowledge-based questionnaire and the Death Attitude Profile-Revised (DAP-R) were administered. Six weeks post-workshop, in-depth interviews were conducted. We employed descriptive statistics, student paired samples t-test and inductive thematic analysis.
RESULTS: There was a significant improvement in nurses' knowledge score (p < 0.01) and reduction in their death anxiety score (p < 0.01). Fear of Death (p = 0.025) and Death Avoidance (p = 0.047) sub-scores decreased significantly. However, the remaining domains such as Neutral Acceptance, Approach Acceptance, and Escape Acceptance did not show any significant difference, although Escape Acceptance showed a trend towards a reduced score (p = 0.063). After the workshop, more nurses adopted the Neutral Acceptance stance (76.2%), and none of them fell into the Fear of Death subdomain. Most nurses interviewed reported a positive change in their knowledge, attitudes, and practice even after the workshop.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The multimodal palliative care workshop was useful in improving nurses' EOL knowledge and reducing their anxiety towards death. The positive change in nurses' attitudes and practices were noted to be sustained for at least six weeks after the intervention.
Background: Emergency department visits or readmission to hospital are common particularly among those with advanced illness. Little prospective data exist on early outcomes specifically for patients seen by a palliative care consult service during their acute care admission, who are subsequently discharged home.
Methods:This study followed 62 oncology patients who had had a palliative care consult during their admission to acute care with weekly phone calls postdischarge for 4 weeks. Events recorded included death, readmission, emergency department visits, and admission to a palliative care unit.
Results: By the end of the study, 32 (52%) of 62 had had at least 1 event, (readmission, emergency department visit, or death), with the majority of these occurring in the first 2 weeks postdischarge. The overall 4-week death rate was 14 (22.6%) of 62.
Conclusions: These data suggest that the need for a palliative care consult identifies inpatients at very high risk for early deterioration and underlines the critical importance of advance care planning/goals-of-care discussions by the oncology and palliative care teams to ensure patients and families understand their disease process and have the opportunity to direct their care decisions.
Background: People with sickle cell disease (SCD) have a life expectancy of <50 years, so understanding their end-of-life care is critical.
Objective: We aimed to determine where individuals with SCD were dying and their patterns of care in the year preceding death to highlight end-of-life research priorities and possible opportunities for intervention.
Design: Using the California SCD Data Collection Program database (containing administrative data, vital records, and Medicaid claims), we examined people with SCD who died between 2006 and 2015 (cases) at age <80 years and examined their hospital and emergency department (ED) utilization in their last year of life. Comparators included living controls with SCD matched 1:1 based on age, analysis year, insurance, and income.
Results: We identified 486 people with SCD (cases) who died at a median age of 45 years (SD: 16 years). Most died in the hospital (63%) and ED (15%). In their last year of life, people with SCD were hospitalized for an average of 42 days (SD: 49 days) over five admissions. Inpatient admissions and ED visits were stable throughout the year until the month before death when acute care utilization sharply increased. In their last year of life, cases had more hospitalizations than controls, but similar ED utilization.
Conclusions: People with SCD are dying acutely at a young age and most die in the hospital and the ED. Since clinicians caring for people with SCD currently cannot predict which acute events may be life-threatening, a comprehensive palliative approach to people with SCD must extend beyond chronic pain management and psychosocial support to include advance care planning.
Objective: To evaluate a new intervention intended to increase referral rates from the emergency department (ED) to the palliative medicine service (PMS) in acute hospitals.
Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation in an urban teaching hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Data were collected over two eight-week periods in November/December 2013 and May/June 2015, with the PALliative Medicine in the Emergency Department (PAL.M.ED.™) intervention implemented in the intervening period. All adults who were admitted to the hospital via the ED during the two time periods and who received a palliative care consultation during their hospital stay were included in the study. Our primary analysis evaluated the impact of PAL.M.ED.™ on PMS referral in the ED. Our secondary analysis evaluated the impact of PMS referral in the ED on length of stay (LOS) and utilization, compared to PMS referral later in the admission. We controlled for observed confounding between groups using propensity scores.
Results: PAL.M.ED.™ was associated with an increase in PMS referral in the ED (p < 0.005; odds ratio: 10.5 (95%CI: 3.8 to 28.7)). PMS referral in the ED was associated with shorter hospital LOS (p < 0.005; -10.9 days (95%CI: -17.7 to -4.1)).
Conclusions: Low PMS referral rates in the ED, and the poor outcomes for patients and hospitals that arise from admissions of those with serious illness, may be mitigated by a proactive intervention to identify appropriate patients at admission.