Objectives: Evidence linking end-of-life-care quality in ICUs to bereaved family members’ psychologic distress remains limited by methodological insufficiencies of the few studies on this topic. To examine comprehensively the associations of family surrogates’ severe anxiety and depressive symptoms with end-of-life-care quality in ICUs over their first 6 months of bereavement.
Design: Prospective, longitudinal, observational study.
Setting/Participants: Family surrogates (n = 278) were consecutively recruited from seven medical ICUs at two academically affiliated medical centers in Taiwan.
Measurements and Statistical Analysis: Family surrogates’ anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed 1, 3, and 6 months postloss using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs was assessed 1-month postloss by the Family Satisfaction in the ICU questionnaire. Patients’ end-of-life care was documented over the patient’s ICU stay. Associations of severe anxiety and depressive symptoms (scores = 8 for each subscale) with end-of-life-care quality in ICUs (documented by patient care received and family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs) were examined by multivariate logistic regression models with generalized estimating equation.
Main Results: Prevalence of severe anxiety and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over time. Surrogates’ lower likelihood of severe anxiety or depressive symptoms 3–6 month postloss was associated with death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation, withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, and higher family satisfaction with end-of-life care in ICUs. Bereaved surrogates’ higher likelihood of these symptoms was associated with physician-surrogate prognostic communication and conducting family meetings before patients died.
Conclusions: End-of-life-care quality in ICUs is associated with bereaved surrogates’ psychologic well-being. Enhancing end-of-life-care quality in ICUs by improving the process of end-of-life care, for example, promoting death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation, withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, and increasing family satisfaction with end-of-life care, can lighten bereaved family surrogates’ severe anxiety symptoms and severe depressive symptoms.
Context/Objective: Essential indicators of high-quality end-of-life care in intensive care units (ICUs) have been established but examined inconsistently and predominantly with small samples, mostly from Western countries. Our study goal was to comprehensively measure end-of-life-care quality delivered in ICUs using chart-derived process-based quality measures for a large cohort of critically ill Taiwanese patients.
Methods: For this observational study, patients with APACHE II score =20 or goal of palliative care and with ICU stay exceeding three days ( N = 326) were consecutively recruited and followed until death.
Results: Documentation of process-based indicators for Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs was variable (8.9%–96.3%), but high for physician communication of the patient's poor prognosis to his/her family members (93.0%), providing specialty palliative-care consultations (73.3%), a do-not-resuscitate order in place at death (96.3%), death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (93.5%), and family presence at patient death (76.1%). Documentation was infrequent for social-worker involvement (8.9%) and interdisciplinary family meetings to discuss goals of care (22.4%). Patients predominantly (79.8%) continued life-sustaining treatments (LSTs) until death and died with full life support, with 88.3% and 58.9% of patients dying with mechanical ventilation support and vasopressors, respectively.
Conclusions: Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs heavily used LSTs until death despite high prevalences of documented prognostic communication, providing specialty palliative-care consultations, having a do-not-resuscitate order in place, and death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Family meetings should be actively promoted to facilitate appropriate end-of-life-care decisions to avoid unnecessary suffering from potentially inappropriate LSTs during the last days of life.