CONTEXT: Hospice care focuses on improving the quality of end-of-life care and respecting patients' preferences regarding end-of-life treatment. The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the utilization of hospice services is unknown.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the utilization of hospice care services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: All patients (n = 19,900) cared for at Taipei City Hospital from January 2019 to April 2020 were divided into three time points: January-April 2019 (before COVID-19), May-December 2019 (interim), and January-April 2020 (during COVID-19). This cohort study compared the monthly utilization of hospice services before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESULTS: There was no significant difference in hospice home visits (194 vs. 184; P = 0.686) and new enrollments (15 vs. 14; P = 0.743) to hospice home care before and during the pandemic. However, the bed occupancy rate in hospice units in the hospital was significantly reduced from 66.2% before the pandemic to 37.4% during the pandemic (P = 0.029), whereas that in non-hospice units had a non-significant decrease from 81.6% before the pandemic to 71.8% during the pandemic (P = 0.086). During the pandemic, the number of inpatient days in hospice units was affected more severely than in non-hospice units (-42.4% vs.-10.9%; P = 0.029).
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that hospice home care services were maintained during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the utilization of hospice inpatient care services reduced. Home care for hospice patients is an essential component of palliative care during a pandemic.
BACKGROUND: An increasing number of patients with terminal illnesses prefer to die in their own homes due to aging, high medical payments, a limited number of hospitalization days, and the ability to receive care from family members. However, few studies have been conducted on the subjective perception and value of caregivers for home-based palliative care (HBPC).
OBJECTIVE: To identify common themes and topics of primary family caregivers' lived experiences with HBPC when taking care of terminally ill family members.
METHODS: We conducted audio-recorded transcripts of one-on-one in-depth interviews of primary family caregivers of HBPC. Through a purposive sampling method, the participants were all interviewed; these interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
RESULTS: A total of 22 primary family caregivers participated in the study. "Wholeheartedly accompanying one's family to the end of life at home" was the core category. Six main themes describing caregivers' experiences emerged from the interviews: (1) learning the basic skills of end-of-life home care, (2) arranging the sharing and rotation of care, (3) preparing for upcoming deaths and funerals, (4) negotiating the cultural and ethical issues of end-of-life home care, (5) ensuring a comfortable life with basic life support, and (6) maintaining care characterized by concern, perseverance, and patience.
CONCLUSIONS: Primary family caregivers of HBPC need support and must learn home care skills by means of the holistic approach. It is crucial to establish assessment tools for caregivers' preparedness for HBPC, including biopsychosocial and cultural considerations.