BACKGROUND: The ERANet-LAC CODE (Care Of the Dying Evaluation) international survey assessed quality of care for dying cancer patients in seven countries, by use of the i-CODE questionnaire completed by bereaved relatives. The aim of this sub study was to explore which factors improve or reduce quality of end-of-life (EOL) care from Norwegian relatives' point of view, as expressed in free text comments.
METHODS: 194 relatives of cancer patients dying in seven Norwegian hospitals completed the i-CODE questionnaire 6-8 weeks after bereavement; recruitment period 14 months; response rate 58%. Responders were similar to non-responders in terms of demographic details.104 participants (58% spouse/partner) added free text comments, which were analyzed by systematic text condensation.
RESULTS: Of the 104 comments, 45% contained negative descriptions, 27% positive and 23% mixed. 78% described previous experiences, whereas 22% alluded to the last 2 days of life. 64% of the comments represented medical/surgical/oncological wards and 36% palliative care units. Four main categories were developed from the free text comments: 1) Participants described how attentive care towards the practical needs of patients and relatives promoted dignity at the end of life, which could easily be lost when this awareness was missing. 2) They experienced that lack of staff, care continuity, professional competence or healthcare service coordination caused uncertainty and poor symptom alleviation. 3) Inadequate information to patient and family members generated unpredictable and distressing final illness trajectories. 4) Availability and professional support from healthcare providers created safety and enhanced coping in a difficult situation.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that hospitals caring for cancer patients at the end of life and their relatives, should systematically identify and attend to practical needs, as well as address important organizational issues. Education of staff members ought to emphasize how professional conduct and communication fundamentally affect patient care and relatives' coping.
BACKGROUND: Inadequate description of palliative care cancer patients in research studies often leads to results having limited generalizability. To standardize the description of the sample, the European Association for Palliative Care basic data set was developed, with 31 core demographic and disease-related variables.
AIM: To pilot test the data set to check acceptability, comprehensibility and feasibility.
DESIGN: International, multi-centre pilot study at nine study sites in five European countries, using mixed methods.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Adult cancer patients and staff in palliative care units, hospices and home care.
RESULTS: In all, 191 patients (544 screened) and 190 health care personnel were included. Median time to fill in the patient form was 5 min and the health care personnel form was 7 min. Ethnicity was the most challenging item for patients and requires decisions at a national level about whether or how to include. Health care personnel found weight loss, principal diagnosis, additional diagnoses and stage of non-cancer diseases most difficult to respond to. Registration of diagnoses will be changed from International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th version code to a predefined list, while weight loss and stage of non-cancer diseases will be removed. The pilot study has led to rewording of items, improvement in response options and shortening of the data set to 29 items.
CONCLUSION: Pilot testing of the first version of the European Association for Palliative Care basic data set confirmed that patients and health care personnel understand the questions in a consistent manner and can answer within an acceptable timeframe. The pilot testing has led to improvement, and the new version is now subject to further testing.
Advance care planning (ACP) is a communication process for mapping a patient's wishes and priorities for end-of-life care. In preparation for the introduction of ACP in Norway, we wanted to explore the views of Norwegian pulmonary patients on ACP. We conducted four focus group interviews in a Norwegian teaching hospital, with a sample of 13 patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer or lung fibrosis. Analysis was by systematic text condensation. Participants' primary need facing end-of-life communication was "the comforting safety", implying support, information and transparency, with four underlying themes: 1) provide good team players; 2) offer conversations with basic information; 3) seize the turning point; and 4) balance transparency. Good team players were skilled communicators knowledgeable about treatment and the last phase of life. Patients preferred dialogues at the time of diagnosis and at different "turning points" in the disease trajectory and being asked carefully about their needs for communication and planning. Transparency was important, but difficult to balance. ACP for patients with life-threatening pulmonary disease should rest upon an established patient-doctor/nurse relationship and awareness of turning points in the patient's disease progression. Individually requested and tailored information can support and empower patients and their relatives.
CONTEXT: Dying patients commonly experience potentially distressing symptoms. Palliative care guidelines recommend opioids, anticholinergics, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines for symptom relief.
OBJECTIVES: To systematically review the effectiveness and safety of palliative drug treatment in the last days of life of adult patients, focusing on the management of pain, dyspnea, anxiety, restlessness, and death rattle.
METHODS: A systematic search of the literature published before December 2016 in PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane, ClinicalTrials.gov, and SveMed+. Studies on safety or effectiveness of drug therapy in dying adults with at least one outcome on symptom control, adverse effects, or survival were included. Data for included studies were extracted. Study quality was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Quality assessment tool for quantitative studies.
RESULTS: Of 5940 unique titles identified, 12 studies met the inclusion criteria. Five studies assessed anticholinergics for death rattle, providing no evidence that scopolamine hydrobromide and atropine were superior to placebo. Five studies examined drugs for dyspnea, anxiety, or terminal restlessness, providing some evidence supporting the use of morphine and midazolam. Two studies examined opioids for pain, providing some support for morphine, diamorphine and fentanyl. Eight studies included safety outcomes, revealing no important differences in adverse effects between the interventions, and no evidence for midazolam shortening survival.
CONCLUSION: There is a lack of evidence concerning the effectiveness and safety of palliative drug treatment in dying patients, and the reviewed evidence provides limited guidance for clinicians to assist in a distinct and significant phase of life.