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.
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.
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: Several studies have highlighted the need for improvement in palliative care delivered to older people long-term care facilities. However, the available evidence on how to improve palliative care in these settings is weak, especially in Europe. We describe the protocol of the PACE trial aimed to 1) evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the 'PACE Steps to Success' palliative care intervention for older people in long-term care facilities, and 2) assess the implementation process and identify facilitators and barriers for implementation in different countries.
METHODS: We will conduct a multi-facility cluster randomised controlled trial in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and England. In total, 72 facilities will be randomized to receive the 'Pace Steps to Success intervention' or to 'care as usual'. Primary outcome at resident level: quality of dying (CAD-EOLD); and at staff level: staff knowledge of palliative care (Palliative Care Survey).
SECONDARY OUTCOMES: resident's quality of end-of-life care, staff self-efficacy, self-perceived educational needs, and opinions on palliative care. Economic outcomes: direct costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Measurements are performed at baseline and after the intervention. For the resident-level outcomes, facilities report all deaths of residents in and outside the facilities over a previous four-month period and structured questionnaires are sent to (1) the administrator, (2) staff member most involved in care (3) treating general practitioner, and (4) a relative. For the staff-level outcomes, all staff who are working in the facilities are asked to complete a structured questionnaire. A process evaluation will run alongside the effectiveness evaluation in the intervention group using the RE-AIM framework.
DISCUSSION: The lack of high quality trials in palliative care has been recognized throughout the field of palliative care research. This cross-national cluster RCT designed to evaluate the impact of the palliative care intervention for long-term care facilities 'PACE Steps to Success' in seven countries, will provide important evidence concerning the effectiveness as well as the preconditions for optimal implementation of palliative care in nursing homes, and this within different health care systems.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study is registered at www.isrctn.com - ISRCTN14741671 (FP7-HEALTH-2013-INNOVATION-1 603111) Registration date: July 30, 2015.