Qualitative methodologies have multiple contributions to health research, including improving baseline understanding in new areas of enquiry; questioning existing assumptions; understanding viewpoints of specific subgroups; and offering complex, contextual information. While the role of qualitative research within mixed methods approaches is well documented, the contribution to clinical trial design and conduct is less well recognized. The Australian Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative and Cancer Symptom Trials have developed a framework to detail how qualitative research might contribute to each key aspect of clinical trials. This practical framework provides real-world examples, including sample qualitative questions, to consider at each phase of controlled clinical trial development. As the number of randomized clinical trials in palliative care increases, a readily accessible approach to integrating qualitative research into clinical trial design and conduct is needed so that its full potential for improving study recruitment, conduct, outcomes, interpretation, and implementation may be realized.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer and leading cause of cancer mortality globally. Lung cancer is associated with significant morbidity, with symptoms often being poorly managed, causing significant symptom burden for both patients and their family caregivers. In people with life-limiting illnesses including advanced cancer, palliative care has been effective in improving symptom control, physical and mental wellbeing, quality of life, and survivorship; with benefits extending to caregivers while in the role and subsequently. Earlier integration of palliative care within oncology may be associated with improved patient outcomes, and has been supported by two Lancet commissions and national guidelines. The evidence for its effectiveness, however, has been mixed across the cancer spectrum. The aim of this review was to evaluate the current evidence for the effectiveness of early integrated palliative care in improving outcomes for people with lung cancer and their caregivers. Meta-analyses were performed where studies used the same measure. Otherwise, synthesis used a narrative approach. Similar to other types of advanced cancer, this review reveals mixed evidence for the effectiveness of early referral to palliative care and for the effectiveness of individual palliative interventions for people with lung cancer and their caregivers. Evidence that on-demand palliative care is equally, if not more effective than palliative care that is routinely provided, raises the question whether initiation and provision of palliative care as part of multidisciplinary lung cancer care ought to be guided by an early referral or need-based referral. Better understanding of what constitutes palliative care when delivered to people with lung cancer and their caregivers will help delineate the correlation with reported outcomes for these populations.
CONTEXT: Currently, systematic evidence of prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in people with extremely short prognoses is not available to inform its global burden, assessment, and management.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in people with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses (range of days to weeks).
METHODS: A systematic review and meta-analysis (random effects model) were performed (PROSPERO: CRD42019125119). MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and CareSearch were searched for studies (1994-2019). Data were screened for prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms (assessed using validated depression-specific screening tools or diagnostic criteria) of adults with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses (defined by survival or functional status). Quality assessment was performed using the Joanna Briggs Institute Systematic Reviews Checklist for Prevalence Studies for individual studies, and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) across studies.
RESULTS: Thirteen studies were included. The overall pooled prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in adults with extremely short prognoses (n = 10 studies; extremely short prognoses: N = 905) using depression-specific screening tools was 50% (95%CI: 29%-70%; I2 = 97.6%). Prevalence of major and minor depression were 10% (95%CI: 4%-16%) and 5% (95%CI: 2%-8%), respectively. Major limitations included high heterogeneity, selection bias and small sample sizes in individual studies.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinically significant depressive symptoms were prevalent in people with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses. Clinicians need to be proactive in the recognition and assessment of these symptoms to allow for timely intervention.
Background: Chronic breathlessness is a disabling syndrome that profoundly impacts patients’ and caregivers’ lives. Driving is important for most people, including those with advanced disease. Regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine safely reduces breathlessness, but little is known about its impact on driving.
Aim: To understand patients’ and caregivers’ (1) perspectives and experiences of driving with chronic breathlessness; and (2) perceived impact of regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine on driving.
Design: A qualitative study embedded in a pragmatic, phase III, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of low-dose, sustained-release morphine (<=32 mg/24 h) for chronic breathlessness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted immediately after participants withdrew or completed the randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Informed by grounded theory, a constant comparative approach to analysis was adopted.
Setting/participants: Participants were recruited from an outpatients palliative care service in Adelaide, Australia. Participants included patients (n = 13) with severe breathlessness associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and their caregivers (n = 9).
Results: Participants were interviewed at home. Eleven received morphine 8–32 mg. Three themes emerged: (1) independence; (2) breathlessness’ impact on driving; and (3) driving while taking regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine.
Conclusion: Driving contributed to a sense of identity and independence. Being able to drive increased the physical and social space available to patients and caregivers, their social engagement and well-being. Patients reported breathlessness at rest may impair driving skills, while the introduction of sustained-release morphine seemed to have no self-reported impact on driving. Investigating this last perception objectively, especially in terms of safety, is the subject of ongoing work.
Background: Delirium is a common debilitating complication of advanced cancer.
Objective: To determine if a multicomponent nonpharmacological delirium prevention intervention was feasible for adult patients with advanced cancer, before a phase III (efficacy) trial.
Design: Phase II (feasibility) cluster randomized controlled trial. All sites implemented delirium screening and diagnostic assessment. Strategies within sleep, vision and hearing, hydration, orientation, mobility, and family domains were delivered to enrolled patients at intervention site admission days 1–7. Control sites then implemented the intervention (“waitlist sites”).
Setting: Four Australian palliative care units.
Measurements: The primary outcome was adherence, with an a priori endpoint of at least 60% patients achieving full adherence. Secondary outcomes were interdisciplinary care delivery, delirium measures, and adverse events, analyzed descriptively and inferentially.
Rsults: Sixty-five enrolled patients (25 control, 20 intervention, and 20 waitlist) had 98% delirium screens and 75% diagnostic assessments completed. Nurses (67%), physicians (16%), allied health (8.4%), family (7%), patients (1%), and volunteers (0.5%) delivered the intervention. There was full adherence for 5% patients at intervention sites, partial for 25%. Both full and partial adherence were higher at waitlist sites: 25% and 45%, respectively. One-third of control site patients (32%) became delirious within seven days of admission compared to one-fifth (20%) at both intervention and waitlist sites (p = 0.5). Mean (standard deviation) Delirium Rating Scale-Revised-1998 scores were 16.8 + 12.0 control sites versus 18.4 + 8.2 (p = 0.6) intervention and 18.7 + 7.8 (p = 0.5) waitlist sites. The intervention caused no adverse events.
Conclusion: The intervention requires modification for optimal adherence in a phase III trial.
Background: People with dementia requiring palliative care have multiple needs, which are amplified in long-term care settings. The European Association for Palliative Care White Paper offers recommendations for optimal palliative care in dementia integral for this population, providing useful guidance to inform interventions addressing their specific needs.
Aim: The aim of this study is to describe the components of palliative care interventions for people with dementia in long-term care focusing on shared decision-making and examine their alignment to the European Association for Palliative Care domains of care.
Design: Systematic review with narrative synthesis (PROSPERO ID: CRD42018095649).
Data sources: Four databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and CENTRAL) were searched (earliest records – July 2019) for peer-reviewed articles and protocols in English, reporting on palliative care interventions for people with dementia in long-term care, addressing European Association for Palliative Care Domains 2 (person-centred) or 3 (setting care goals) and >=1 other domain.
Results: Fifty-one papers were included, reporting on 32 studies. For each domain (1–10), there were interventions found aiming to address its goal, although no single intervention addressed all domains. Domain 7 (symptom management; n = 19), 6 (avoiding overly aggressive treatment; n = 18) and 10 (education; n = 17) were the most commonly addressed; Domain 5 (prognostication; n = 7) and 4 (continuity of care; n = 2) were the least addressed.
Conclusion: Almost all domains were addressed across all interventions currently offered for this population to various degrees, but not within a singular intervention. Future research optimally needs to be theory driven when developing dementia-specific interventions at the end of life, with the European Association for Palliative Care domains serving as a foundation to inform the best care for this population.
INTRODUCTION: Minimising bias in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) includes intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses. Hospice/palliative care RCTs are constrained by high attrition unpredictable when consenting, including withdrawals between randomisation and first exposure to the intervention. Such withdrawals may systematically bias findings away from the new intervention being evaluated if they are considered non-responders. This study aimed to quantify this impact within ITT principles.
METHODS: A theoretical model was developed to assess the impact of withdrawals between randomisation and first exposure on i) study power and ii) effect sizes. Ten reported hospice/palliative care studies had power recalculated accounting for such withdrawal.
RESULTS: In the theoretical model, when 5% of withdrawals occurred between randomisation and first exposure to the intervention, change in power was demonstrated in binary outcomes (2.0-2.2%), continuous outcomes (0.8-2.0%) and time-to-event outcomes (1.6-2.0%), and odds ratios were changed by 0.06-0.17. Greater power loss was observed with larger effect sizes. Withdrawal rates were 0.9%-10% in the ten reported RCTs, corresponding to power losses of 0.1%-2.2%. For studies with binary outcomes, withdrawal rates were 0.3-1.2%, changing odds ratios by 0.01-0.22.
DISCUSSION: If blinding is maintained and all interventions are available simultaneously, our model suggests that excluding data from withdrawals between randomisation and first exposure to the intervention minimises one bias. This is the safety population as defined by the International Committee on Harmonisation. When planning for future trials, minimising the time between randomisation and first exposure to the intervention will minimise the problem. Power should be calculated on people who receive the intervention.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning (ACP) is identified as being an important process for people with dementia. However, its efficacy for improving outcomes relevant for the individual, carers and the health system has yet to be established.AimWe conducted a systematic review with the aims of testing the efficacy of ACP for people with dementia and describing the settings and population in which it has been evaluated.
METHODS: A search was completed of electronic databases in August 2016. Articles were included if they described interventions aimed at increasing planning for future care of people with dementia, delivered to the person with dementia, their carers and/or health professionals.
RESULTS: Of 4,772 articles returned by searches, 30 met the inclusion criteria, testing interventions in nursing home (n= 16) community (n = 10) and acute care (n = 4) settings. Only 18 interventions directly involved the person with dementia, with the remainder focusing on surrogate decision-makers. In all settings, interventions were found effective in increasing ACP practice. In nursing homes, ACP was found to influence care and increase the concordance between end of life wishes and care provided. Interventions in the community were found to improve patient quality of life but were not shown to influence concordance.
CONCLUSION: Future research should focus on ways to involve people with dementia in decision-making through supported means.
OBJECTIVE: The working ages (25-65 years) are a period when most people have significant work, financial, and family responsibilities. A small proportion of working age people will face an expected premature death from cancer or other life-limiting illness. Understanding the impact an expected premature death has on this population is important for informing support. The current study set out to summarize research describing the effects that facing an expected premature death has on employment, financial, and lifestyle of working age people and their families.
METHOD: A systematic review using narrative synthesis approach. Four electronic databases were searched in July 2016 for peer-reviewed, English language studies focusing on the financial, employment, and lifestyle concerns of working age adults living with an advanced life-limiting illness and/or their carers and/or children.
RESULTS: Fifteen quantitative and 12 qualitative studies were included. Two-thirds (n = 18) were focused on cancer. All studies identified adverse effects on workforce participation, finances, and lifestyle. Many patients were forced to work less or give up work/retire early because of symptoms and reduced functioning. In addition to treatment costs, patients and families were also faced with child care, travel, and home/car modification costs. Being younger was associated with greater employment and financial burden, whereas having children was associated with lower functional well-being. Changes in family roles were identified as challenging regardless of diagnosis, whereas maintaining normalcy and creating stability was seen as a priority by parents with advanced cancer. This review is limited by the smaller number of studies focussing on the needs of working age people with nonmalignant disease. Significance of results Working age people facing an expected premature death and their families have significant unmet financial, employment, and lifestyle needs. Comparing and contrasting their severity, timing, and priority for people with nonmalignant conditions is required to better understand their unique needs.