Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.
CONTEXT: Symptom management is essential in the end of life care of long-term care facility residents.
OBJECTIVES: To study discrepancies and possible associated factors in staff and family carers' symptom assessment scores for residents in the last week of life.
METHODS: A post mortem survey in Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland: staff and family carers completed the "End-Of-Life in Dementia - Comfort Assessment in Dying" scale (EOLD-CAD), rating 14 symptoms on a 1 to 3-point scale. Higher scores reflect better comfort. We calculated mean paired differences in symptom, subscale and total scores at a group level and interrater agreement and percentage of perfect agreement at a resident level.
RESULTS: Mean staff scores significantly reflected better comfort than those of family carers for the total End-of-Life in Dementia—Comfort Assessment in Dying (31.61 vs. 29.81; P < 0.001) and the physical distress (8.64 vs. 7.62; P < 0.001) and dying symptoms (8.95 vs. 8.25; P < 0.001) subscales. No significant differences were found for emotional distress and well-being. The largest discrepancies were found for gurgling, discomfort, restlessness, and choking for which staff answered not at all, whereas the family carer answered a lot, in respectively, 9.5%, 7.3%, 6.7%, and 6.1% of cases. Inter-rater agreement ranged from 0.106 to 0.204, the extent of perfect agreement from 40.8 for lack of serenity to 68.7% for crying.
CONCLUSION: There is a need for improved communication between staff and family and discussion about symptom burden in the dying phase in long-term care facilities.
Background: The PACE Steps to Success programme is a complex educational and development intervention to improve palliative care in nursing homes. Little research has investigated processes in the cross-cultural adaptation and implementation of interventions in palliative care across countries, taking account of differences in health and social care systems, legal and regulatory policies, and cultural norms. This paper describes a framework for the cross-cultural development and support necessary to implement such an intervention, taking the PACE Steps to Success programme as an exemplar.
Methods: The PACE Steps to Success programme was implemented as part of the PACE cluster randomised control trial in seven European countries. A three stage approach was used, a) preparation of resources; b) training in the intervention using a train-the-trainers model; and c) cascading support throughout the implementation. All stages were underpinned by cross-cultural adaptation, including recognising legal and cultural norms, sensitivities and languages. This paper draws upon collated evidence from minutes of international meetings, evaluations of training delivered, interviews with those delivering the intervention in nursing homes and providing and/or receiving support.
Results: Seventy eight nursing homes participated in the trial, with half randomized to receive the intervention, 3638 nurses/care assistants were identified at baseline. In each country, 1–3 trainers were selected (total n = 16) to deliver the intervention. A framework was used to guide the cross-cultural adaptation and implementation. Adaptation of three English training resources for different groups of staff consisted of simplification of content, identification of validated implementation tools, a review in 2 nursing homes in each country, and translation into local languages. The same training was provided to all country trainers who cascaded it into intervention nursing homes in local languages, and facilitated it via in-house PACE coordinators. Support was cascaded from country trainers to staff implementing the intervention.
Conclusions: There is little guidance on how to adapt complex interventions developed in one country and language to international contexts. This framework for cross-cultural adaptation and implementation of a complex educational and development intervention may be useful to others seeking to transfer quality improvement initiatives in other contexts.
St Christopher’s Hospice, London, was founded to provide specialist care to the incurably ill. We studied the dimensions of difference that set St Christopher’s Hospice apart from hospital care of the dying, focusing on physical space and social organization. Material from 1953 to 1980 from the Cicely Saunders Archive was analyzed qualitatively. Through thematic analysis, quotes were found and analyzed using open coding. Five themes were developed. Themes identified were home/homelike, community, consideration of others, link with outside world, and privacy. The hospice philosophy functioned as the catalyst for the development of the physical environment of St Christopher’s Hospice. Taking Habermas’ concept of lifeworld, it seems that, in contrast to acute care, the need for hospice to formulate their own lifeworld to support and fully engage patients was central. As lifeworlds are culture sensitive, this underlines the need for variation in design and organization of hospices around the world.
The Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (VAD Act), which commenced on 19 June 2019, permits voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in limited circumstances in Victoria. In addition to Victoria, the Western Australian government is currently developing its own VAD legislation, and Parliamentary committees have been established in Queensland and South Australia to consider reform. Although repeated attempts to reform the law have been generally unsuccessful, it now appears legislation may be more likely to pass.
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BACKGROUND: By 2030, 30% of the European population will be aged 60 or over and those aged 80 and above will be the fastest growing cohort. An increasing number of people will die at an advanced age with multiple chronic diseases. In Europe at present, between 12 and 38% of the oldest people die in a long-term care facility. The lack of nationally representative empirical data, either demographic or clinical, about people who die in long-term care facilities makes appropriate policy responses more difficult. Additionally, there is a lack of comparable cross-country data; the opportunity to compare and contrast data internationally would allow for a better understanding of both common issues and country-specific challenges and could help generate hypotheses about different options regarding policy, health care organization and provision. The objectives of this study are to describe the demographic, facility stay and clinical characteristics of residents dying in long-term care facilities and the differences between countries.
METHODS: Epidemiological study (2015) in a proportionally stratified random sample of 322 facilities in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and England. The final sample included 1384 deceased residents. The sampled facilities received a letter introducing the project and asking for voluntary participation. Facility manager, nursing staff member and treating physician completed structured questionnaires for all deaths in the preceding 3 months.
RESULTS: Of 1384 residents the average age at death ranged from 81 (Poland) to 87 (Belgium, England) (p < 0.001) and length of stay from 6 months (Poland, Italy) to 2 years (Belgium) (p < 0.05); 47% (the Netherlands) to 74% (Italy) had more than two morbidities and 60% (England) to 83% (Finland) dementia, with a significant difference between countries (p < 0.001). Italy and Poland had the highest percentages with poor functional and cognitive status 1 month before death (BANS-S score of 21.8 and 21.9 respectively). Clinical complications occurred often during the final month (51.9% England, 66.4% Finland and Poland).
CONCLUSIONS: The population dying in long-term care facilities is complex, displaying multiple diseases with cognitive and functional impairment and high levels of dementia. We recommend future policy should include integration of high-quality palliative and dementia care.
Context: To provide high-quality palliative care to nursing home residents, staff need to understand the basic principles of palliative care.
Objectives: to evaluate the extent of agreement with the basic principles of palliative care of nurses and care assistants working in nursing homes in five European countries and to identify correlates.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study in 214 homes in Belgium, England, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland. Agreement with basic principles of palliative care was measured with the Rotterdam MOVE2PC. We calculated percentages and odds ratios of agreement and an overall score between 0 (no agreement) and 5 (total agreement).
Results: Most staff in all countries agreed that palliative care involves more than pain treatment (58% Poland to 82% Belgium) and includes spiritual care (62% Italy to 76% Belgium) and care for family or relatives (56% Italy to 92% Belgium). Between 51% (the Netherlands) and 64% (Belgium) correctly disagreed that palliative care should start in the last week of life and 24% (Belgium) to 53% (Poland) agreed that palliative care and intensive life-prolonging treatment can be combined. The overall agreement score ranged between 1.82 (Italy) and 3.36 (England). Older staff (0.26; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.09–0.43, P = 0.003), nurses (0.59; 95% CI: 0.43–0.75, P < 0.001), and staff who had undertaken palliative care training scored higher (0.21; 95% CI: 0.08–0.34, P = 0.002).
Conclusions: The level of agreement of nursing home staff with basic principles of palliative care was only moderate and differed between countries. Efforts to improve the understanding of basic palliative care are needed.
OBJECTIVES: To describe and compare euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) practice in Flanders, Belgium (BE), the Netherlands (NL) and Switzerland (CH).
METHODS: Mortality follow-back surveys among attending physicians of a random sample of death certificates.
RESULTS: We studied 349 EAS deaths in BE (4.6% of all deaths), 851 in NL (4.6% of all deaths) and 65 in CH (1.4% of all deaths). People who died by EAS were mostly aged 65 or older (BE: 81%, NL: 77% and CH: 71%) and were mostly diagnosed with cancer (BE: 57% and NL: 66%). Home was the most common place of death in NL (79%), while in BE and CH, more variation was found regarding to place of death. The decision to perform EAS was more frequently discussed with a colleague physician in BE (93%) and NL (90%) than in CH (60%).
CONCLUSIONS: EAS practice characteristics vary considerably in the studied countries with legal EAS. In addition to the legal context, cultural factors as well as the manner in which legislation is implemented play a role in how EAS legislation translates into practice.
Background: Opioids, antipsychotics and hypnotics are recommended for comfort care in dying. We studied their prescription during the last 3 days in residents deceased in the long-term care facility (LTCF).
Methods: In a retrospective, cross-sectional survey in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, LTCFs, selected by proportional stratified random sampling, reported all deaths over the previous 3 months. The nurse most involved in the residents' care reviewed the chart for opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription, cause of death and comorbidities. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to adjust for resident characteristics.
Results: Response rate was 81.6%. We included 1079 deceased residents in 322 LCTFs. Opioid prescription ranged from 18.5% (95% CI: 13.0-25.8) of residents in Poland to 77.9% (95% CI: 69.5-84.5) in the Netherlands, antipsychotic prescription from 4.8% (95% CI: 2.4-9.1) in Finland to 22.4% (95% CI: 14.7-32.4) in Italy, hypnotic prescription from 7.8% (95% CI: 4.6-12.8) in Finland to 47.9% (95% CI: 38.5-57.3) in the Netherlands. Differences in opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription between countries remained significant (P < 0.001) when controlling for age, gender, length of stay, cognitive status, cause of death in multilevel, multivariable analyses. Dying from cancer showed higher odds for receiving opioids (OR 3.51; P < 0.001) and hypnotics (OR 2.10; P = 0.010).
Conclusions: Opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription in the dying phase differed significantly between six European countries. Further research should determine the appropriateness of their prescription and refine guidelines especially for LTCF residents dying of non-cancer diseases.
BACKGROUND: Measuring the quality of palliative care in a systematic way using quality indicators can illuminate differences between patient groups.
AIM: To investigate differences in the quality of palliative care in primary care between people who died of cancer and people who died of organ failure.
DESIGN: Mortality follow-back survey among general practitioners in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain (2013-2014), and Italy (2013-2015). A standardized registration form was used to construct quality indicators regarding regular pain measurement, acceptance of the approaching end of life, communication about disease-related topics with patient and next-of-kin; repeated multidisciplinary consultations; involvement of specialized palliative care; place of death; and bereavement counseling.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Patients (18+) who died non-suddenly of cancer, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory disease (n = 2360).
RESULTS: In all countries, people who died of cancer scored higher on the quality indicators than people who died of organ failure, particularly with regard to pain measurement (between 17 and 35 percentage-point difference in the different countries), the involvement of specialized palliative care (between 20 and 54 percentage points), and regular multidisciplinary meetings (between 12 and 24 percentage points). The differences between the patient groups varied by country, with Belgium showing most group differences (eight out of nine indicators) and Spain the fewest (two out of nine indicators).
CONCLUSION: People who died of organ failure are at risk of receiving lower quality palliative care than people who died of cancer, but the differences vary per country. Initiatives to improve palliative care should have different priorities depending on the healthcare and cultural context.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to describe and compare the relation between treatment aims, hospitalizations, and hospital mortality for Dutch patients who died from lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, or pancreatic cancer.
METHODS: A mortality follow-back study was conducted within a sentinel network of Dutch general practitioners (GPs), who recorded the end-of-life care of 691 patients who died from one of the abovementioned cancer types between 2009 and 2015. Differences in care by type of cancer were analyzed using multilevel analyses to control for clustering within general practices.
RESULTS: Among all cancer types, patients with prostate cancer most often and patients with pancreatic cancer least often had a palliative treatment aim a month before death (95% resp. 84%). Prostate cancer patients were also least often admitted to hospital in the last month of life (18.5%) and least often died there (3.1%), whereas lung cancer patients were at the other end of the spectrum with 41.8% of them being admitted to hospital and 22.6% dying in hospital. Having a palliative treatment aim and being older were significantly associated with less hospital admissions, and having a palliative treatment aim, having prostate cancer, and dying in a more recent year were significantly associated with less hospital deaths.
CONCLUSION: There is large variation between patients with different cancer types with regard to treatment aims, hospital admissions, and hospital deaths. The results highlight the need for early initiation of GP palliative care to support patients from all cancer types to stay at the place they prefer as long as possible.
Background: General Practitioners (GPs) are at the first level of contact in many European healthcare systems and they supposedly have a role in supporting cancer patients in achieving their desired place of death. A four-country (Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain) study was carried out exploring current practices.
Patients and methods: EURO SENTI-MELC adopted a retrospective study design and data for this study were collected in 2010 through representative GPs' networks in four countries. In the current study all non-sudden cancer deaths were included with weekly GP registrations.
Results: The main study sample included 930 deceased cancer patients: preference for place of death was known by GPs for only 377. GP awareness on the preferred place of death varied across countries, 27% in Italy, 36% in Spain, 45% in Belgium and 72% in the Netherlands (p<0.01). The general level of preferences met was high, from 68% (Italy) to 92% (Spain).
Conclusions: Despite the importance of being able to die in a preferred location, GPs were often unaware about patient preferences, especially in Italy and Spain. If GPs were informed, the preference was often met in all countries, indicating room for improvement in end-of-life care.
Multiple transitions between care settings in the last phase of life could jeopardize continuity of care and overall end-of-life patient care. Using a mortality follow-back study, we examined the nature and prevalence of transitions between Dutch care settings in the last 3 months of life, and identified potential characteristics associated with them. During the 2-year study period, 690 registered patients died 'totally expectedly and non-suddenly'. These made 709 transitions in the last 3 months, which involved a hospital two times out of three, and covered 43 distinct care trajectories. The most frequent trajectory was home-to-hospital (48%). Forty-six percent experienced one or more transitions in their last month of life. Male gender, multi-morbidities, and absence of GP awareness of a patient's wish for place of death were associated with having a transition in the last 30 days of life; age of < or = 85 years, having an infection and the absence of a palliative-centred treatment goal were associated with terminal hospitalization for > or = 7 days. Although the majority of the 'totally expected and non-sudden' deaths occurred at home, transitions to hospitals were relatively frequent. To minimize abrupt or frequent transitions just before death, timely recognition of the palliative phase of dying is important.
Les auteurs évaluent l'évolution de la prévalence liée à la prise de conscience du médecin généraliste des préférences du patient âgé en termes de pratique générale. Les médécins généralistes sont bien plus conscients des préférences de leurs patients en 2014 qu'en 2009 que ce soit en Belgique qu'aux Pays-Bas, ce qui suggère que la pratique de la planification avancée des soins peut augmenter rapidement.
Le but de cette étude est de comparer les aspects des soins de fin de vie parmi les personnes âgées demeurant en maison de retraite ou à domicile aux Pays-Bas.Malgré des buts de traitements similaires, les soins en maison de retraite semblent plus adéquats pour éviter l'hospitalisation en fin de vie.
D'après cette enquête, la formation en soins palliatifs peut influencer la manière dont les oncologues parlent des soins palliatifs et orientent leurs patients vers de tels soins. Cela devrait être mis en avant dans le cursus des étudiants en médecine et dans la formation des oncologues et autres professionnels de santé déjà diplômés, en particulier dans des pays où l'intégration aux soins palliatifs est moindre comme en République Tchèque et en Slovaquie.