BACKGROUND: Care home residents are frequently transferred to hospital, rather than provided with appropriate and timely specialist care in the care home.
AIM: To determine whether a model of care providing specialist palliative care in care homes, called Specialist Palliative Care Needs Rounds, could reduce length of stay in hospital.
DESIGN: Stepped-wedge randomised control trial. The primary outcome was length of stay in acute care (over 24-h duration), with secondary outcomes being the number and cost of hospitalisations. Care homes were randomly assigned to cross over from control to intervention using a random number generator; masking was not possible due to the nature of the intervention. Analyses were by intention to treat. The trial was registered with ANZCTR: ACTRN12617000080325. Data were collected between 1 February 2017 and 30 June 2018.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: 1700 residents in 12 Australian care homes for older people.
RESULTS: Specialist Palliative Care Needs Rounds led to reduced length of stay in hospital (unadjusted difference: 0.5 days; adjusted difference: 0.22 days with 95% confidence interval: -0.44, -0.01 and p = 0.038). The intervention also provided a clinically significant reduction in the number of hospitalisations by 23%, from 5.6 to 4.3 per facility-month. A conservative estimate of annual net cost-saving from reduced admissions was A$1,759,011 (US$1.3 m; UK£0.98 m).
CONCLUSION: The model of care significantly reduces hospitalisations through provision of outreach by specialist palliative care clinicians. The data offer substantial evidence for Specialist Palliative Care Needs Rounds to reduce hospitalisations in older people approaching end of life, living in care homes.
New approaches are needed to assist residential aged care (RAC) staff increase their skills and confidence in identifying when residents are nearing the dying phase and managing symptoms. One new evidence-based approach to improve palliative and end-of-life care in RAC is outreach Specialist Palliative Care Needs Rounds (monthly triage and risk stratification meetings – hereafter Needs Rounds); as yet untried in rural settings which may face unique enablers or challenges. Needs Rounds were introduced into two RAC facilities in the rural Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales, Australia. This study explored staff and general practitioners’(GPs’) experiences and perceptions of palliative and end-of-life care in rural RAC, and staff confidence and capability in providing such care, prior to, and after the introduction of Needs Rounds. A mixed-methods, pre- and post-intervention approach was taken, utilizing a Likert-scale written questionnaire and face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Between March and November 2018, 61 questionnaires were completed by 48 RAC staff (33 pre-, 28 post-intervention); eight staff and three GPs were interviewed. Despite system and site-specific barriers, staff self-reported that Needs Rounds increased their capability in providing end-of-life care (p = 0.04; 95% CI 0.20–7.66), and improved staff: (1) awareness of end of life, reflective practice, and critical thinking; (2) end-of-life decision making and planning; and (3) pain management. Needs Rounds are acceptable and feasible in rural RAC. Palliative and end-of-life care for residents may be improved through education, collaboration, communication, and planning. Further studies should explore running Needs Rounds via telehealth and/or utilizing a multidisciplinary approach.
OBJECTIVES: Mortality in care homes is high, but care of dying residents is often suboptimal, and many services do not have easy access to specialist palliative care. This study examined the impact of providing specialist palliative care on residents' quality of death and dying.
DESIGN: Using a stepped wedge randomized control trial, care homes were randomly assigned to crossover from control to intervention using a random number generator. Analysis used a generalized linear and latent mixed model. The trial was registered with ANZCTR: ACTRN12617000080325.
SETTING: Twelve Australian care homes in Canberra, Australia.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 1700 non-respite residents were reviewed from the 12 participating care homes. Of these residents, 537 died and 471 had complete data for analysis. The trial ran between February 2017 and June 2018.
INTERVENTION: Palliative Care Needs Rounds (hereafter Needs Rounds) are monthly hour-long staff-only triage meetings to discuss residents at risk of dying without a plan in place. They are chaired by a specialist palliative care clinician and attended by care home staff. A checklist is followed to guide discussions and outcomes, focused on anticipatory planning.
MEASUREMENTS: This article reports secondary outcomes of staff perceptions of residents' quality of death and dying, care home staff confidence, and completion of advance care planning documentation. We assessed (1) quality of death and dying, and (2) staff capability of adopting a palliative approach, completion of advance care plans, and medical power of attorney.
RESULTS: Needs Rounds are associated with staff perceptions that residents had a better quality of death and dying (P < .01; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.83-12.21), particularly in the 10 facilities that complied with the intervention protocol (P < .01; 95% CI = 6.37-13.32). Staff self-reported perceptions of capability increased (P < .01; 95% CI = 2.73-6.72).
CONCLUSION: The data offer evidence for monthly triage meetings to transform the lives, deaths, and care of older people residing in care homes.
Objective: This study aimed to achieve consensus regarding what distinguishes specialist from non-specialist palliative care to inform service organisation and delivery to patients with life-limiting conditions.
Methods: A three-phase Delphi study was undertaken, involving qualitative interviews and two questionnaire cycles. Thirty-one clinicians (nurses, doctors and social workers) working with a wide range of patients participated in interviews, of whom 27 completed two questionnaire cycles.
Results: Consensus was gained on 75 items that define specialist palliative care and distinguish it from non-specialist palliative care. Consensus was gained that specialist palliative care clinicians have advanced knowledge of identifying dying, skills to assess and manage complex symptoms to improve quality of life, have advanced communication skills and perform distinct clinical practices (e.g. working with the whole family as the unit of care and providing support in complex bereavement). Non-specialist palliative care involves discussions around futile or burdensome treatments, and care for people who are dying.
Conclusions: Areas of connection were identified: clinicians from disease-specific specialties should be more involved in leading discussions on futile or burdensome treatment and providing care to people in their last months and days of life, in collaboration with specialists in palliative care when required. What is known about the topic? At present there is no evidence-based definition or agreement about what constitutes specialist palliative care (as opposed to palliative care delivered by non-specialists) in the Australian Capital Territory. An agreed definition is needed to effectively determine the workforce required and its clinical skill mix, and to clarify roles and expectations to mitigate risks in not adequately providing services to patients with life-limiting conditions.
BACKGROUND: Improving access to palliative care for older adults living in residential care is recognised internationally as a pressing clinical need. The integration of specialist palliative care in residential care for older adults is not yet standard practice.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to understand the experience and impact of integrating a specialist palliative care model on residents, relatives and staff.
METHODS: Focus groups were held with staff (n=40) and relatives (n=17). Thematic analysis was applied to the data.
RESULTS: Three major themes were identified. The intervention led to (1) normalising death and dying in these settings, (2) timely access to a palliative care specialist who was able to prescribe anticipatory medications aiding symptom management and unnecessary hospitalisations and (3) better decision-making and planned care for residents, which meant that staff and relatives were better informed about, and prepared for, the resident's likely trajectory.
CONCLUSIONS: The intervention normalised death and dying and also underlined the important role that specialists play in providing staff education, timely access to medicines and advance care planning. The findings from our study, and the growing wealth of evidence integrating specialist palliative care in residential care for older adults, indicate a number of priorities for care providers, academics and policymakers. Further work on determining the role of primary and specialist palliative care services in residential care settings is needed to inform service delivery models.
OBJECTIVES: Palliative care needs rounds are triage meetings that have been introduced in residential care for older adults to help identify and prioritise care for people most at risk for unplanned dying with inadequately controlled symptoms. This study sought to generate an evidence-based checklist in order to support specialist palliative care clinicians integrate care in residential nursing homes for older people.
METHODS: A grounded theory ethnographic study, involving non-participant observation and qualitative interviews. The study was conducted at four residential facilities for older people in one city. Observations and recordings of 15 meetings were made, and complimented by 13 interviews with staff attending the needs rounds.
RESULTS: The palliative care needs round checklist is presented, alongside rich description of how needs rounds are conducted. Extracts from interviews with needs rounds participants illustrate the choice of items within the checklist and their importance in supporting the evolution towards efficient and effective high-quality specialist palliative care input to the care of older people living in residential care.
CONCLUSIONS: The checklist can be used to support the integration of specialist palliative care into residential care to drive up quality care, provide staff with focused case-based education, maximise planning and reduce symptom burden for people at end of life.