Elderly patients with advanced chronic kidney disease have high symptom burden, despite the progress in renal replacement therapy. Dialysis is not a good option especially for frail elderly patients with higher comorbidity rate. Integration of palliative and supportive care to conservative management improves quality of life and prolongs survival of these patients. Conservative management of symptoms, prognostication, communication of advance care plans and shared-decision making should be a part of physicians skills. There are some recommended prognostication systems in nephrology, which can help to facilitate the physician-patient communication about therapeutic goals of care. Ethical and jural aspects of the process are also very important.
A transitional care pathway (TCP) could improve care for older patients in the last months of life. However, barriers exist such as unidentified palliative care needs and suboptimal collaboration between care settings. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of a TCP, named PalliSupport, for older patients at the end of life, prior to a stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial.
BACKGROUND: Many patients receive unwanted, low-value, high-intensity care at the end of life because of poor communication with health care providers. Our aim was to evaluate the feasibility of using a physician assistant and an electronic tool to facilitate discussions about goals of care.
METHOD: We conducted a pilot study for the intervention (physician assistant-led discussion using an electronic tool) from Apr. 1 to Aug. 31, 2019. Patients aged 79 years or older admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital (Barrie, Ontario) with either (i) no documented resuscitation preferences or (ii) a request for life-sustaining treatments in the event of a life-threatening illness were eligible for the intervention. The goal of this study was to complete more than 30 interventions. The primary outcomes included the proportion of consenting eligible patients, the time required and the proportion of patients changing their resuscitation preferences.
RESULTS: A total of 763 patients met the inclusion criteria, with 337 eligible for the intervention. Of these, 49 cases were contacted for consent, and 37 interventions were completed (75.5%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 61.1%-86.6%). On average, the intervention required 50 minutes (standard deviation 21) to complete. Overall, 31 interventions resulted in a change in resuscitation preferences (83.7%, 95% CI 68.0%-93.8%), with 22 patients choosing to forgo any access to life-sustaining treatments in the event of a life-threatening illness (59.4%, 95% CI 42.1%-75.2%).
INTERPRETATION: In this pilot study, the intervention was completed in a minority of eligible patients and required substantial time; however, it led to many changes in resuscitation preferences. Before designing a study to evaluate its impact, the intervention needs to be revised to make it more efficient to administer.
BACKGROUND: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) became legal in Canada in June 2016. As part of a project designed to improve end-of-life care for those requesting MAID, qualitative data from patients, families, and providers were used to assess opportunities to enhance patient-and family-centered care (PFCC) in this program.
METHODS: Thirty interviews were conducted with patients, families, and healthcare providers. Five patients who requested an assessment for MAID, 11 family members, and 14 healthcare providers were interviewed about their experiences in 2017. Comparative coding and thematic analysis were completed with the support of NVivo12.
RESULTS: Emotional PFCC considerations included: exploring and validating the emotional journey, navigating the uncertain, judgmental experiences, and the emotional impact on families and the care team. Physical PFCC considerations included: sensitivity in eligibility assessments, weaving in interdisciplinary care, provision of anticipatory guidance, and death location. Spiritual PFCC considerations included: honoring choice, listening to life stories, supporting spiritual needs, and acknowledging loss. Relational PFCC considerations included: defining the circle of support, supporting the circle, and relational investments.
CONCLUSION: Fundamental to a PFCC MAID program, practitioners must be afforded time to provide holistic care. Program-related suggestions include incorporating interdisciplinary care early, and throughout the illness trajectory, consistency in care providers, appropriate anticipatory guidance, and bereavement supports for family, and dedicate space for MAID provisions. Patients and families must be included in the ongoing development and re-evaluation of MAID programs to ensure continued focus on quality end-of-life care.
The choice to utilize hospice care in the nursing home when residents are experiencing progressive decline can promote positive quality of care and comfort for residents at the end of life. Concurrent hospice and nursing home care can be less aggressive, and improve symptom management and perceived quality by family members. Using a secondary analysis of retrospective data from the electronic medical record, this study identified predictors of hospice use among 300 nursing home decedents using a six-month look back period. Findings showed that having poorer physical status (weight loss), cognitive status, and having had a "goals of care" conversation were significantly associated with greater likelihood of using hospice in the nursing home in the last six months of life. Interdisciplinary team members who provide care on a daily basis and are in a position to detect worsening medical condition of residents and can facilitate advance planning. Care planning that includes examining goals of care and communication with hospice providers when multiple care providers are involved is essential.
Purpose: The purpose of the study is to capture goals expressed by older adults with functional limitations and their caregivers.
Methods: Through focus groups and interviews, 76 older adults with =1 activity of daily living limitation and 28 family/friend caregivers were asked about what mattered most to them and their goals for care. Transcripts were coded using an existing taxonomy. Goals that did not fit the taxonomy were assigned new codes.
Results: We identified more than 50 goals in eight domains. Domains included (a) Medical Care; (b) Quality of Life: Physical; (c) Quality of Life: Social and Emotional; (d) Access to Services and Supports; (e) Caregiver Needs and Concerns; (f) End of Life; (g) Independence; and (h) Acceptable Housing.
Conclusion: While there is overlap between identified goals and the existing taxonomy, new goals emerged. The goal domains identified could serve as a framework to improve and measure the quality of goal-oriented care for older adults with complex needs.
Background: Although there is growing evidence that close reading of literature and reflective writing can improve providers' appreciation of the patient experience, foster physician development, and combat burnout, there has been less work on the experience of reading literature with patients, and even less literature about its effect on those facing serious or life-threatening illness. In addition, longer form reading may be unsuitable for some patient populations, given high burden of fatigue and possible contribution of delirium. Time pressure may also preclude discussion by a practitioner working in a busy clinical context.
Hypothesis: We feel the condensed medium of poetry presents a natural opportunity to engage patients with the medical humanities, helping them to articulate difficult or joyful experiences, and/or serving as necessary diversion when facing serious illness.
Project Description: Poetry for patients-a project developed through collaboration between Northwestern Memorial Hospital, The Jesse Brown VA, and the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture-has developed three short collections of poems, and an accompanying discussion guides for use specifically with patients and families. Hereunder, we present three case examples of a short (10-30 minutes) reading session with patients demonstrating that it is feasible to incorporate reading poetry with patients facing serious illness. Potential therapeutic value includes helping patients to articulate pain and joy, giving patients a vehicle to recapture their creative voice, and altering the power dynamics inherit to the provider-patient relationship. We have also noted enhanced life review, often on themes otherwise difficult to access. In turn, these readings have deepened our ability to see out patients as creative, intellectual, and larger than their medical illness.
Advances in the treatment of cancer have improved both the quantity and quality of life for patients in recent years. Better supportive care, improved therapies to moderate side effects and symptom management, the understanding of molecular mechanisms, and the advent of targeted agents and immunotherapy have all improved the outcome for many cancer patients. Yet, the sad reality is that most patients will eventually succomb to their disease.
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BACKGROUND: Despite increased annual mortality in long-term care (LTC) homes, research has shown that care of dying residents and their families is currently suboptimal in these settings. The purpose of this study was to evaluate resident and family outcomes associated with the Strengthening a Palliative Approach in LTC (SPA-LTC) program, developed to help encourage meaningful end of life discussions and planning.
METHODS: The study employs a mixed method design in four LTC homes across Southern Ontario. Data were collected from residents and families of the LTC homes through chart reviews, interviews, and focus groups. Interviews with family who attended a Palliative Care Conference included both closed-ended and open-ended questions.
RESULTS: In total, 39 residents/families agreed to participate in the study. Positive intervention outcomes included a reduction in the proportion of emergency department use at end of life and hospital deaths for those participating in SPA-LTC, improved support for families, and increased family involvement in the care of residents. For families who attended a Palliative Care Conference, both quantitative and qualitative findings revealed that families benefited from attending them. Residents stated that they appreciated learning about a palliative approach to care and being informed about their current status.
CONCLUSIONS: The benefits of SPA-LTC for residents and families justify its continued use within LTC. Study results also suggest that certain enhancements of the program could further promote future integration of best practices within a palliative approach to care within the LTC context. However, the generalizability of these results across LTC homes in different regions and countries is limited given the small sample size.
The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated the need for frequent end-of-life discussions. The circumstances surrounding these conversations are quite atypical. Here, I describe one such goals-of-care discussion during the pandemic and how I relied on the precedent of prior goals-of-care discussions to guide me through an unprecedented situation.
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.
BACKGROUND: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) is an end-of-life program that honors the dignity of dying patients by fostering meaningful connections among patients, families, and clinicians. Since 2013, it has become embedded in the culture of end-of-life care in over 20 ICUs across North America. The purpose of the current study is to describe the variation in implementation of 3WP across sites, in order to ascertain which factors facilitated multicenter implementation, which factors remain consistent across sites, and which may be adapted to suit local needs.
METHODS: Using the methodology of qualitative description, we collected interview and focus group data from 85 clinicians who participated in the successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP in 9 ICUs. We describe the transition between different models of 3WP implementation, from core clinical program to the incorporation of various research activities. We describe various sources of financial and in-kind resources accessed to support the program.
RESULTS: Beyond sharing a common goal of improving end-of-life care, sites varied considerably in organizational context, staff complement, and resources. Despite these differences, the program was successfully implemented at each site and eventually evolved from a clinical or research intervention to a general approach to end-of-life care. Key to this success was flexibility and the empowerment of frontline staff to tailor the program to address identified needs with available resources. This adaptability was fueled by cross-pollination of ideas within and outside of each site, resulting in the establishment of a network of like-minded individuals with a shared purpose.
CONCLUSIONS: The successful initiation and sustainment of 3WP relied on local adaptations to suit organizational needs and resources. The semi-structured nature of the program facilitated these adaptations, encouraged creative and important ways of relating within local clinical cultures, and reinforced the main tenet of the program: meaningful human connection at the end of life. Local adaptations also encouraged a team approach to care, supplementing the typical patient-clinician dyad by explicitly empowering the healthcare team to collectively recognize and respond to the needs of dying patients, families, and each other.
Anyone’s life can turn upside down. Illness, disease, and accidents can jeopardize the life of anyone at any time. For families and their loved ones who fall victim to a serious medical crisis or disease, a little preparation can make a big difference. A 2018 survey revealed that 92% of adults know it is important to share their medical preferences with family and medical providers in preparation for end of life. Only 32% report they have shared their wishes.
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During the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is particularly critical to ensure that life-sustaining treatment (LST) such as intubation and resource-intensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are aligned with a patient’s goals and values, and to avoid LSTs in patients with a poor prognosis that are unlikely to be beneficial, but have a high risk of causing additional suffering. The high volume and acuity of COVID-19 patients makes it extremely challenging for emergency department (ED) clinicians to take adequate time to clarify goals of care (GOC). We implemented an ED-based COVID-19 palliative care response team focused on providing high-quality GOC conversations in time-critical situations. We examined the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients who received this intervention.
Methods: This retrospective observational study was conducted in the ED of an urban, quaternary care academic medical center in New York, New York. We included 110 patients for whom the palliative care team was consulted between March 27, 2020, and April 10, 2020, with follow-up through May 9, 2020. Columbia University institutional review board approved this study and waived the need for informed consent.
Emergency department clinicians consulted the palliative care team for assistance with any palliative care-related needs, including GOC clarification and cases where stated GOC did not align with expected prognosis. The palliative care team (1 attending physician who was board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine, 1 hospice/palliative medicine fellow clinician, and 4 psychiatry resident physicians and fellow clinicians, all trained in GOC conversations and supervised by the palliative care attending physician) was available in person 12 hours per day, and for phone consultation overnight and on weekends. The palliative care intervention focused on GOC conversations: conveying the prognosis in a clear and simple way, exploring patients’ goals and values, and making care recommendations based on elicited goals.1,2
Deidentified demographic data were collected from the medical record. Primary outcomes included GOC before and after palliative care intervention, as well as GOC on death or discharge. Secondary outcomes included clinical course and length of stay in the hospital
Goals of care were defined as “full code” (pursue all LSTs including intubation and CPR); “do-not-resuscitate (DNR) only” (pursue all LSTs excluding CPR); “DNR/do-not-intubate (DNI), continue medical treatment” (pursue all LSTs excluding intubation and CPR); and “comfort-directed care” (forgo LSTs, deliver symptom-focused treatment only). The GOC were presumed to be full code if no advance directives or medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST) were found on presentation to the ED.
Six patients were still hospitalized at the time of data review; they were excluded from the analysis for clinical course.
Results: The 110 patients were aged a median (range) of 81.5 (46-101) years and 61 (55.4%) were women. Patient demographic and clinical characteristics are reported in Table 1. Most patients were community-dwelling elderly persons (aged >75 years) with at least 2 comorbidities and lacked decision-making capacity at the time of presentation. Very few patients presented with documented advance directives or MOLST and therefore were presumed to be full code.
The primary outcomes are summarized in Table 2. After initial palliative care intervention, the number of full code decreased from 91 patients (82.7%) to 20 patients (18.2%). Among these 71 patients (64.5%) in whom CPR was declined, mechanical ventilation was also declined in 61 patients (55.5%) (ie, 32 patients in DNR/DNI, continue medical treatment, 29 patients in comfort-directed care). On discharge, the number of full code further decreased to 9 patients (8.6%), whereas comfort-directed care increased to 54 patients (51.9%). The median (range) length of stay was 4 (0-28) days and 71 patients (68.2%) died in the hospital. Among 33 patients (31.7%) who were discharged alive, 6 patients (5.8%) were discharged with hospice care.
Discussion: The included patients’ demographic characteristics were consistent with those of critically ill patients with COVID-19 previously reported and with those of patients reported to be at highest risk of death from COVID-19. Patients without advance care planning conversations are known to be at risk of receiving unwanted, high-intensity, lower-quality care,5 even though many seriously ill patients do not prefer LSTs at the end of life.6
The most important finding in this study was, after palliative care intervention in the ED, most patients and their surrogates opted to forgo mechanical ventilation and/or CPR, and that tendency further increased on discharge. We believe timely GOC conversations by the palliative care team helped avoid unwanted LSTs for patients with a poor prognosis. Study limitations include potentially limited generalizability given the retrospective design at a single institution. Also, palliative care consultation was initiated by ED clinicians, which may have led to selection bias, though a high rate of altered GOC after intervention suggests significant, unaddressed need in the outlying population.
Background: Lung cancer has a high impact on both patients and relatives due to the high disease burden and short life expectancy. Previous studies looked into treatment goals patients have before starting a systemic treatment. However, studies on relatives’ perceptions of treatment at the end of life are scarce. Therefore, we studied the perspectives of relatives in hindsight on the achievement of treatment goals and the choice to start treatment for metastatic lung cancer of their loved one.
Methods: we conducted a structured telephone interview study in six hospitals across the Netherlands, one academic and five non-academic hospitals, between February 2017 and November 2019. We included 118 relatives of deceased patients diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer who started a systemic treatment as part of usual care (chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and who completed a questionnaire on their treatment goals before the start of treatment and when treatment was finished. We asked the relatives about the achievement of patients’ treatment goals and relatives’ satisfaction with the choice to start treatment. This study is part of a larger study in which 266 patients with metastatic lung cancer participated who started a systemic treatment and reported their treatment goals before start of the treatment and the achievement of these goals after the treatment.
Results: Relatives reported the goals ‘quality of life’, ‘decrease tumour size’ and ‘life prolongation’ as achieved in 21, 37 and 41% respectively. The majority of the relatives (78%) were satisfied with the choice to start a treatment and even when none of the goals were achieved, 70% of the relatives were satisfied. About 50% of relatives who were satisfied with the patients’ choice mentioned negative aspects of the treatment choice, such as the treatment did not work, there were side effects or it would not have been the relatives’ choice. Whereas, 80% of relatives who were not satisfied mentioned negative aspects of the treatment choice. The most mentioned positive aspects were that they tried everything and that it was the patient’s choice.
Conclusion: The majority of relatives reported patients’ treatment goals as not achieved. However, relatives were predominantly satisfied about the treatment choice. Satisfaction does not provide a full picture of the experience with the treatment decision considering that the majority of relatives mentioned (also) negative aspects of this decision. At the time of making the treatment decision it is important to manage expectations about the chance of success and the possible side effects of the treatment.
Background: The 3 Wishes Project is a semistructured program that improves the quality of care for patients dying in the intensive care unit by eliciting and implementing wishes. This simple intervention honors the legacy of patients and eases family grief, forging human connections between family members and clinicians.
Aim: To examine how the 3 Wishes Project enables collective patterns of compassion between patients, families, clinicians, and managerial leaders in the intensive care unit.
Design: Using a qualitative descriptive approach, interviews and focus groups were used to collect data from family members of dying patients, clinicians, and institutional leaders. Unconstrained directed qualitative content analysis was performed using Organizational Compassion as the analytic framework.
Setting/participants: Four North American intensive care units, participants were 74 family members of dying patients, 72 frontline clinicians, and 20 managerial leaders.
Results: The policies and processes of the 3 Wishes Project exemplify organizational compassion by supporting individuals in the intensive care unit to collectively notice, feel, and respond to suffering. As an intervention that enables and empowers clinicians to engage in acts of kindness to enhance end-of-life care, the 3 Wishes Project is particularly well situated to encourage collective responses to suffering and promote compassion between patients, family members, and clinicians.
Conclusions: Examining the 3 Wishes Project through the lens of organizational compassion reveals the potential of this program to cultivate the capacity for people to collectively notice, feel, and respond to suffering. Our data document multidirectional demonstrations of compassion between clinicians and family members, forging the type of human connections that may foster resilience.
Background: The ability to perceive care goals of the dying may be an indicator of future quality patient-centered care. Research conducted on end-of-life goals indicates discrepancies between patients and physicians.
Objective: The aim of this study is to compare end-of-life care goals of hospice patients and medical student perceptions of patient care goals.
Design: Hospice patients and medical students were surveyed on their care goals and perceptions, respectively, using an 11-item survey of goals previously identified in palliative care literature. Medical student empathy was measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index.
Settings/Participants: Eighty hospice patients and 176 medical students (97 first-year and 79 third-year) in a New York State medical school.
Results: Medical students ranked 7 of the 11 care goals differently than hospice patients: not being a burden to family ( p < .001), time with family and friends ( p = .002), being at peace with God ( p < .001), dying at home ( p = .004), feeling that life was meaningful ( p < .001), living as long as possible ( p < .001), and resolving conflicts ( p < .001). Third-year students were less successful than first-year students in perceiving patient care goals of hospice patients. No significant differences in medical student empathy were found based on student year.
Conclusions: Medical students, while empathetic, were generally unsuccessful in perceiving end-of-life care goals of hospice patients in the psychosocial and spiritual domains. Differences impeding the ability of medical students to understand these care goals may be generationally based. Increased age awareness and sensitivity may improve future end-of-life care discussions. Overall, there is a need to recognize the greater dimensionality of the dying in order to provide the most complete patient-centered care.
Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), in particular acute coronary syndrome (ACS), comprising ST-elevation myocardial infarction, non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction and unstable angina, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Age is a major predictor of adverse outcome following ACS. COVID-19 infection seems to escalate the risk in older patients with heart disease. Increasing odds of in-hospital death is associated with older age following COVID-19 infection. Importantly, it seems older patients with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), in particular IHD, diabetes and hypertension, are at the highest risk of mortality following COVID-19 infection. The evidence is sparse on the optimal care of older patients with ACS with lack of robust randomised controlled trials. In this setting, with the serious threat imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of rapidly evolving knowledge with much unknown, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of treatment strategies offered to older patients. In cases where risks outweigh the benefits, it might not be an unreasonable option to treat such patients with a conservative or a palliative approach. Further evidence to elucidate whether invasive management is beneficial in older patients with ACS is required out-with the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is hoped that the actual acute phase of COVID-19 infection will be short lived, it is vital that important clinical research is continued, given the long-term benefits of ongoing clinical research for patients with long-term conditions, including CVD. This review aimed to evaluate the challenges and the management strategies in the care of older patients presenting with ACS in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) occurs in about 25% of hospitalized patients with decompensated cirrhosis (DC) and is associated with high, short-term mortality . The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) - Chronic Liver Failure (CLIF) EASL-CLIF Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure in Cirrhosis (CANONIC) study showed that 28-day mortality could be predicted after the 3rd day in the intensive care unit (ICU) applying the CLIF-sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score.
BACKGROUND: Prior to national spread, the Department of Veterans Affairs implemented a pilot of the life-sustaining treatment decisions initiative (LSTDI) to promote proactive goals of care conversations (GoCC) with seriously ill patients, including policy and practice standards, an electronic documentation template and order set, and implementation support.
AIM: To describe a 2-year pilot of the LSTDI at 4 demonstration sites.
DESIGN: Prospective observational study.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: A total of 6664 patients who had at least one GoCC.
RESULTS: Descriptive statistics characterized patient demographics, goals of care, LST decisions, and risk of hospitalization or mortality among patients with at least one GoCC. Participants were on average 71.4 years old, 93.2% male, 87.1% white, and 64.7% urban; 27.3% died by the end of the pilot period. Fifteen percent lacked decision-making capacity (DMC). Nonmutually exclusive goals included to be cured (7.6%), to prolong life (34%), to improve/maintain quality of life (61.5%), to be comfortable (53%), to obtain support for family/caregiver (8.4%), to achieve life goals (2.1%), and other (10.5%). Many GoCCs resulted in a do not resuscitate (DNR) order (58.8%). Patients without DMC were more likely to have comfort-oriented goals (77.3% vs 48.8%) and a DNR (84% vs 52.6%). Chart abstraction supported content validity of GoCC documentation.
CONCLUSION: The pilot demonstrated that standardizing practices for eliciting and documenting GoCCs resulted in customized documentation of goals of care and LST decisions of a large number of seriously ill patients and established the feasibility of spreading standardized practices throughout a large integrated health care system.