OBJECTIVES: To report on direct experiences from advanced head and neck cancer patients, family carers and healthcare professionals, and the barriers to integrating specialist palliative care.
METHODS: Using a naturalistic, interpretative approach, within Northwest England, a purposive sample of adult head and neck cancer patients was selected. Their family carers were invited to participate. Healthcare professionals (representing head and neck surgery and specialist nursing; oncology; specialist palliative care; general practice and community nursing) were recruited. All participants underwent face-to-face or telephone interviews. A thematic approach, using a modified version of Colazzi's framework, was used to analyze the data.
RESULTS: Seventeen interviews were conducted (9 patients, 4 joint with family carers and 8 healthcare professionals). Two main barriers were identified by healthcare professionals: "lack of consensus about timing of Specialist Palliative Care engagement" and "high stake decisions with uncertainty about treatment outcome." The main barrier identified by patients and family carers was "lack of preparedness when transitioning from curable to incurable disease." There were 2 overlapping themes from both groups: "uncertainty about meeting psychological needs" and "misconceptions of palliative care."
CONCLUSIONS: Head and neck cancer has a less predictable disease trajectory, where complex decisions are made and treatment outcomes are less certain. Specific focus is needed to define the optimal way to initiate Specialist Palliative Care referrals which may differ from those used for the wider cancer population. Clearer ways to effectively communicate goals of care are required potentially involving collaboration between Specialist Palliative Care and the wider head and neck cancer team.
Background: Many people with dementia die in nursing homes, but quality of care may be suboptimal. We developed the theory-driven 'Compassion Intervention' to enhance end-of-life care in advanced dementia.
Objectives: To (1) understand how the Intervention operated in nursing homes in different health economies; (2) collect preliminary outcome data and costs of an interdisciplinary care leader (ICL) to facilitate the Intervention; (3) check the Intervention caused no harm.
Design: A naturalistic feasibility study of Intervention implementation for 6 months.
Settings: Two nursing homes in northern London, UK.
Participants: Thirty residents with advanced dementia were assessed of whom nine were recruited for data collection; four of these residents' family members were interviewed. Twenty-eight nursing home and external healthcare professionals participated in interviews at 7 (n=19), 11 (n=19) and 15 months (n=10).
Intervention: An ICL led two core Intervention components: (1) integrated, interdisciplinary assessment and care; (2) education and support for paid and family carers.
Data collected: Process and outcome data were collected. Symptoms were recorded monthly for recruited residents. Semistructured interviews were conducted at 7, 11 and 15 months with nursing home staff and external healthcare professionals and at 7 months with family carers. ICL hours were costed using Department of Health and Health Education England tariffs.
Results: Contextual differences were identified between sites: nursing home 2 had lower involvement with external healthcare services. Core components were implemented at both sites but multidisciplinary meetings were only established in nursing home 1. The Intervention prompted improvements in advance care planning, pain management and person-centred care; we observed no harm. Six-month ICL costs were £18255.
Conclusions: Implementation was feasible to differing degrees across sites, dependent on context. Our data inform future testing to identify the Intervention's effectiveness in improving end-of-life care in advanced dementia.
Background: Many studies have examined the mental health of carers of people with dementia. Few have examined their experiences in the advanced stages of disease and into bereavement. We aimed to understand the experiences of carers during advanced dementia exploring the links between mental health and experiences of end of life care.
Methods: Mixed methods longitudinal cohort study. Thirty-five family carers of people with advanced dementia (6 at home, 29 in care homes) were recruited and assessed monthly for up to nine months or until the person with dementia died, then at two and seven months into bereavement. Assessments included: Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Short Form 12 health-related quality of life, 22-item Zarit Burden Interview, Brief Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced, Inventory of Complicated Grief and Satisfaction with Care at End of Life in Dementia. Subsequently, 12 carers (34%) were bereaved and 12 undertook a qualitative interview two months after death; these data were analysed thematically. We analysed quantitative and qualitative data independently and then merged findings at the point of interpretation.
Results: At study entry psychological distress was high; 26% reached caseness for depression and 41% for anxiety and median complicated grief scores were 27 [IQR 22-37] indicating that on average 11 of the 16 grief symptoms occurred at least monthly. Physical health reflected population norms (mean = 50) and median burden scores were 17 [IQR 9-30]. Three qualitative themes were identified: the importance of relationships with care services, understanding of the progression of dementia, and emotional responses to advanced dementia. An overarching theme tying these together was the carer's ability to control and influence end of life care.
Conclusions: While carers report high levels of psychological distress during advanced dementia, the experience of end of life care in dementia may be amenable to change with the provision of sensitive and timely information about the natural progression of dementia. Regular health status updates and end of life discussions can help families understand dementia progression and prepare for end of life. The extent to which our findings reflect practice across the UK or internationally warrants further investigation.