Background: Optimizing quality of life (QoL) remains the central tenet of care in patients with incurable cancer; however, determinants of QoL are not clear. The objective of the current study was to examine which factors influence QoL in patients with incurable cancer.
Methods: A multicenter study of adult patients with advanced cancer was conducted in Ireland and the United Kingdom between 2011 and 2016. Data were collected from patients at study entry and included patient demographics, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (ECOG-PS), nutritional parameters (the percentage weight loss [%WL]), muscle parameters assessed using computed tomography images (skeletal muscle index and skeletal muscle attenuation), inflammatory markers (modified Glasgow Prognostic score [mGPS]), and QoL data (the European Organization for Research and Treatment Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C-30). The relation between clinical, nutritional, and inflammatory parameters with QoL was assessed using the Spearman rank correlation coefficient and multivariate binary logistic regression. Components of the European Organization for Research and Treatment Quality-of-Life Questionnaire C-30 (physical function, fatigue, and appetite loss) and summary QoL scores were mean-dichotomized for the logistic regression analyses.
Results: Data were available for 1027 patients (51% men; median age, 66 years). Gastrointestinal cancer was most prevalent (40%), followed by lung cancer (26%) and breast cancer (9%). Distant metastatic disease was present in 87% of patients. The %WL, ECOG-PS, and mGPS were significantly correlated with deteriorating QoL functional and symptom scales (all P < .001). On multivariate regression analysis, >10% WL (odds ratio [OR], 2.69; 95% CI, 1.63-4.42), an ECOG-PS of 3 or 4 (OR, 14.33; 95% CI, 6.76-30.37), and an mGPS of 2 (OR, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.09-2.29) were independently associated with poorer summary QoL scores. These parameters were also independently associated with poorer physical function, fatigue, and appetite loss (all P < .05). Low skeletal muscle attenuation was independently associated with poorer physical functioning (OR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.09-2.56), but muscle parameters were not independently associated with fatigue, appetite loss, or QoL summary scores.
Conclusions: The current findings indicate that QoL is determined (at least in part) by WL, ECOG-PS, and the systemic inflammatory response in patients with advanced cancer. Identifying early predictors of poor QoL may allow the identification of patients who may benefit from early referral to palliative and supportive care, which has been shown to improve QoL.
Background: All countries face growing demand for palliative care services. Projections of need are essential to plan care in an era of demographic change. We aim to estimate palliative care needs in Ireland from 2016 to 2046.
Methods: Static modelling of secondary data. First, we estimate the numbers of people in Ireland who will die from a disease associated with palliative care need. We combine government statistics on cause of death (2007-2015) and projected mortality (2016-2046). Second, we combine these statistics with survey data to estimate numbers of people aged 50+ living and dying with diseases associated with palliative care need. Third, we use these projections and survey data to estimate disability burden, pain prevalence and health care utilisation among people aged 50+ living and dying with serious medical illness.
Results: In 2016, the number of people dying annually from a disease indicating palliative care need was estimated as 22,806, and the number of people not in the last year of life aged 50+ with a relevant diagnosis was estimated as 290,185. Equivalent estimates for 2046 are 40,355 and 548,105, increases of 84% and 89% respectively. These groups account disproportionately for disability burden, pain prevalence and health care use among older people, meaning that population health burdens and health care use will increase significantly in the next three decades. Conclusion: The global population is ageing, although significant differences in intensity of ageing can be seen between countries. Prevalence of palliative care need in Ireland will nearly double over 30 years, reflecting Ireland's relatively young population. People living with a serious disease outnumber those in the last year of life by approximately 12:1, necessitating implementation of integrated palliative care across the disease trajectory. Urgent steps on funding, workforce development and service provision are required to address these challenges.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life experience is a subject of significant policy interest. National longitudinal studies offer valuable opportunities to examine individual-level experiences. Ireland is an international leader in palliative and end-of-life care rankings. We aimed to describe the prevalence of modifiable problems (pain, falls, depression) in Ireland, and to evaluate associations with place of death, healthcare utilisation, and formal and informal costs in the last year of life.
METHODS: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a nationally representative sample of over-50-year-olds, recruited in Wave 1 (2009-2010) and participating in biannual assessment. In the event of a participant's death, TILDA approaches a close relative or friend to complete a voluntary interview on end-of-life experience. We evaluated associations using multinomial logistic regression for place of death, ordinary least squares for utilisation, and generalised linear models for costs. We identified 14 independent variables for regressions from a rich set of potential predictors. Of 516 confirmed deaths between Waves 1 and 3, the analytic sample contained 375 (73%) decedents for whom proxies completed an interview.
RESULTS: There was high prevalence of modifiable problems pain (50%), depression (45%) and falls (41%). Those with a cancer diagnosis were more likely to die at home (relative risk ratio: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.3-4.8) or in an inpatient hospice (10.2; 2.7-39.2) than those without. Place of death and patterns of health care use were determined not only by clinical need, but other factors including age and household structure. Unpaid care accounted for 37% of all care received but access to this care, as well as place of death, may be adversely affected by living alone or in a rural area. Deficits in unpaid care are not balanced by higher formal care use.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite Ireland's well-established palliative care services, clinical need is not the sole determinant of end-of-life experience. Cancer diagnosis and access to family supports were additional key determinants. Future policy reforms should revisit persistent inequities by diagnosis, which may be mitigated through comprehensive geriatric assessment in hospitals. Further consideration of policies to support unpaid carers is also warranted.
Background: Care costs rise towards the end of life. International comparison of service use, costs and care experiences can inform quality and improve access.
Aim: The aim of this study was to compare health and social care costs, quality and their drivers in the last 3 months of life for older adults across countries. Null hypothesis: no difference between countries.
Design: Mortality follow-back survey. Costs were calculated from carers’ reported service use and unit costs.
Setting: Palliative care services in England (London), Ireland (Dublin) and the United States (New York, San Francisco).
Participants: Informal carers of decedents who had received palliative care participated in the study.
Results: A total of 767 questionnaires were returned: 245 in England, 282 in Ireland and 240 in the United States. Mean care costs per person with cancer/non-cancer were US$37,250/US$37,376 (the United States), US$29,065/US$29,411 (Ireland), US$15,347/US$16,631 (England) and differed significantly (F = 25.79/14.27, p < 0.000). Cost distributions differed and were most homogeneous in England. In all countries, hospital care accounted for > 80% of total care costs; community care 6%–16%, palliative care 1%–15%; 10% of decedents used ~30% of total care costs. Being a high-cost user was associated with older age (>80 years), facing financial difficulties and poor experiences of home care, but not with having cancer or multimorbidity. Palliative care services consistently had the highest satisfaction.
Conclusion: Poverty and poor home care drove high costs, suggesting that improving community palliative care may improve care value, especially as palliative care expenditure was low. Major diagnostic variables were not cost drivers. Care costs in the United States were high and highly variable, suggesting that high-cost low-value care may be prevalent.
OBJECTIVE: Irish legislation on Advance Healthcare Directives (Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act 2015, ADMC) proposes to change the basis of decision making from acting in the patient's best interests to following the expressed will and intentions of the patient. Refusal of life-saving care can occur, without sound reasons. The implications for care in life-threatening emergencies have not been explored among clinicians.
DESIGN: An anonymous questionnaire survey of Advanced Paramedics (AP) covering awareness of the legislation, attitudes to and experience of refusal of care and potential actions in emergency scenarios now and if the legislation were in force. The scenarios covered end-of-life and deliberate self-harm situations potentially requiring resuscitation.
SETTING: All 482 graduates of the Advanced Paramedic Training Programme were invited to take part.
RESULTS: Overall, 85/389 (21.9%) valid contacts responded, with demographic characteristics similar to the overall population. Attitudes ranged from highly positive to highly negative in relation to the potential impact of the legislation on professional and operational responsibilities. Respondents described marked changes in whether they would offer resuscitation if the ADMC were in place.
CONCLUSION: Irish legislation which changes the traditional basis of medical practice away from the best interests of the patient may affect the resuscitation practices of Advanced Paramedics in life-threatening situations. It has significant implications for medical education, professional practice and clinician-patient interactions. This legislation and similar planned legislation may have implications for other EU jurisdictions.
BJECTIVES: Older people approaching end of life are commonly prescribed multiple medications, many of which may be inappropriate or futile. Our objective was to examine the effect of applying the STOPPFrail, a recently developed deprescribing tool, to the medication regimens of older patients with advanced frailty.
DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.
SETTING: Two acute hospitals in Ireland.
PARTICIPANTS: Adults 75 years or older (n = 130) with advanced frailty and polypharmacy (five or more drugs), transferring to long-term nursing home care.
INTERVENTION: A STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing plan was presented to attending physicians who judged whether or not to implement recommended medication changes.
MEASUREMENTS: The primary outcome was the change in the number of regular medications at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included unscheduled hospital presentations, falls, quality of life, monthly medication costs, and mortality.
RESULTS: Intervention (n = 65) and control group (n = 65) participants were prescribed a mean (plus or minus standard deviation [SD]) of 11.5 (±3.0) and 10.9 (±3.5) medications, respectively, at baseline. The mean (SD) change in the number of medications at 3 months was -2.6 (±2.73) in the intervention group and -.36 (±2.60) in the control group (mean difference = 2.25 ± .54; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18-3.32; P < .001). The mean change in monthly medication cost was –$74.97 (±$148.32) in the intervention group and –$13.22 (±$110.40) in the control group (mean difference $61.74 ± $26.60; 95% CI = 8.95-114.53; P = .02). No significant differences were found between groups for any of the other secondary outcomes.
CONCLUSION: STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing significantly reduced polypharmacy and medication costs in frail older people. No significant differences between groups were observed with regard to falls, hospital presentations, quality of life, and mortality, although the trial was likely underpowered to detect differences in these outcomes.
Background: In health care, clinical effectiveness involves evaluating the degree to which clinical interventions achieve beneficial patient and caregiver outcomes.
Objective: To evaluate the clinical effectiveness of care in a specialist palliative care unit (SPCU) in Ireland, including an analysis of the temporal relationship among admission, Phase of Illness and patient and family distress.
Design/Measurements: A consecutive case series with prospectively collected admission data (n = 400). Using a casemix tool (Phase of Illness), pain, other symptoms, psychological and family distress, and performance status were documented on admission and then daily by medical staff.
Results: Three hundred forty-two (85%) patients had complete data recorded on day 1. After admission, there were linear correlations between days since admission and progressive improvements in pain (Cramer's V = 0.131, p < 0.001), other symptoms (V = 0.206, p < 0.001), psychological distress (V = 0.101, p < 0.001), and family distress (V = 0.124, p < 0.001). Forty-three percent were in an unstable phase on admission. Nearly two thirds (60.7%) of these unstable patients converted to a stable phase within 48 hours of admission. Over the first 72 hours, 70.7% of unstable patients converted to a stable phase. There was also a significant correlation between phase stabilization and pain and symptom control (p = 0.007). Stable phase over the first 4 days and first 14 days was associated with significantly higher performance status.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates the significant clinical effectiveness of SPCU admission across the different aspects of patient and family care.
Objectives: To examine current practices, attitudes and levels of confidence related to advance care planning (ACP) in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among healthcare professionals working in Ireland. This will inform future clinical guidance development.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of healthcare professionals.
Results: There were 143 participants (109 general practitioners, 25 nurses, 7 physiotherapists and 2 consultant physicians). The majority (82%, n=117) cared for patients with COPD weekly, but only 23% (n=33) had initiated ACP with a patient with COPD over the previous 6 months. Overall, 59% (n=85) answered =6 of 8 general knowledge questions correctly. Participants demonstrated positive attitudes towards ACP (mean score 3.6/5.0), but confidence levels were low (2.2/4.0). Most thought ACP was appropriate for patients with severe or very severe COPD (71%, n=101%, and 91%, n=130, respectively) but were unsure or felt that it was not appropriate for those with mild–moderate COPD. However, almost all participants (97%, n=139) stated that if a patient expressed a desire to have ACP discussions, they would comply. Topics most likely to be discussed related to diagnosis and treatment options. Death and end-of-life issues were rarely discussed. The death of a family member or friend and participation in support groups were identified as new ‘triggers’ for initiating ACP.
Conclusions: Targeted education to improve general knowledge and confidence levels among healthcare professionals, together with initiatives to increase public awareness of ACP so that patients themselves might be more inclined to start the discussion, may help increase the uptake of ACP for this patient group.
The management of medications in persons with frailty presents challenges. There is evidence of inappropriate prescribing and a lack of consensus among healthcare professionals on the judicious use of medications, particularly for patients with more severe frailty. This study reviews the evidence on the use of commonly prescribed pharmacological treatments in advanced frailty based on a questionnaire of prescribing practices and attitudes of healthcare professionals at different stages in their careers, in different countries. A convenience sample of those attending hospital grand rounds in Ireland, Canada and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) were surveyed on the management of 18 medications in advanced frailty using a clinical vignette (man with severe dementia, Clinical Frailty Scale 7/9). Choices were to continue or discontinue (stop now or later) medications. In total, 298 respondents from Ireland (n = 124), Canada (n = 110), and ANZ (n = 64) completed the questionnaire, response rate 97%, including 81 consultants, 40 non-consultant hospital doctors, 134 general practitioners and 43 others (nurses, pharmacists, and medical students). Most felt that statins (88%), bisphosphonates (77%) and cholinesterase inhibitors (76%) should be discontinued. Thyroid replacement (88%), laxatives (83%) and paracetamol (81%) were most often continued. Respondents with experience in geriatric, palliative and dementia care were significantly more likely to discontinue medications. Age, gender and experience working in nursing homes did not contribute to the decision. Reflecting the current literature, there was no clear consensus on inappropriate prescribing, although respondents preferentially discontinued medications for secondary prevention. Experience significantly predicted the number and type discontinued, suggesting that education is important in reducing inappropriate prescribing for people in advanced states of frailty.
Background: The use of quality-adjusted life years rests on the assertion that the objective of the health care system is to improve health.
Aim: To elicit the views of expert stakeholders on the purpose and evaluation of supportive end of life care, and explore how different purposes of end of life care imply the need for different evaluative frameworks.
Design:Semi-structured qualitative interviews, analysed through an economic lens using a constant comparative approach.
Participants: Twenty professionals working in or visiting the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland, with clinical experience and/or working as academics in health-related disciplines.
Results: Four purposes of end of life care were identified from and are critiqued with the aid of the qualitative data: to improve health, to enable patients to die in their preferred place, to enable the patient to experience a good death, and to enable the patient to experience a good death, and those who are close to the patient to have an experience which is as free as possible from fear, stress and distress.
Conclusion: Managing symptoms and reducing anxiety were considered to be core objectives of end of life care and fit with the wider health service objective of improving/maximising health. A single objective across the entire health system ensures consistency in the way that resource allocation is informed across that entire system. However, the purpose of care at the end of life is more complex, encompassing diverse and patient-centred objectives which we have interpreted as enabling the patient to experience a good death.
BACKGROUND: Many people receiving palliative care wish to die at home. Often, support from family or friends is key to ensuring that this wish is fulfilled. However, carers report feeling underprepared to undertake this role. This paper describes the process of developing a consensus and evidence based website to provide core information to help people support someone receiving palliative care on the island of Ireland.
METHODS: The project comprised three phases: (1) a review of systematic reviews facilitated the identification of core information needs; (2) content was developed in collaboration with a Virtual Reference Group (VRG) comprising patients, carers and professionals; and, (3) subject experts within the project team worked with a web developer to précis the agreed content and ensure it was in a format that was appropriate for a website. Members of the VRG were then invited to test and approve the website before it was made available to the general public.
RESULTS: Nineteen systematic reviews identified nine consensus areas of core information required by carers; a description of palliative care; prognosis and treatment of the condition; medication and pain management; personal care; specialist equipment; locally available support services; what to do in an emergency; nutrition; and, support for the carer. This information was shared with the VRG and used to develop website content.
CONCLUSIONS: We engaged with service users and professionals to develop an evidence-based website addressing the agreed core information needs of non-professional carers who wish to provide palliative care to a friend or relative.
Background: Project ECHO™ (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a form of online interactive teaching, which has gained international traction. This project evaluates the effectiveness of an ECHO-delivered palliative care education program for the South Dublin region of Ireland. Our aim was to measure project success by quantifying gains in staff confidence.
Methods: The educational program consisted of 10 interactive sessions over a five-month period on palliative care topics ranging from pain management to advance care planning. Twenty nursing homes took part in the education program. Of these, a subgroup of six nursing homes were randomly selected for assessment. Likert scale-based questionnaires assessed staff confidence before and after each lecture and assessment was repeated at least six weeks postlecture. Five of the 10 sessions were assessed in this way. Other characteristics such as staff role and years of experience were also collected.
Results: Twenty nursing homes and 353 staff participated in the education sessions. Of the 6 nursing homes chosen for assessment, an average of 42 questionnaires were returned per session (n = 211), representing 83% of attendees at these 6 selected nursing homes. Seventy-seven percent of questionnaires were successfully followed up for six weeks. Average confidence increased by 27% pre- to postlecture (6.4 [SD = 1.4] to 8.1 [SD = 2.1], p < 0.005). Confidence gains persisted at six weeks; 8.1 of 10 (SD = 1.4), with no significant drop-off (-0.01/10, p = 0.95). All staff groups (nursing vs. non-nursing) exhibited equal confidence gains (nursing gain of 27%, non-nursing gain 22%, p = 0.16), and all confidence gains persisted at six weeks.
Conclusion: This interactive, novel, training program significantly improved nursing home staff confidence in managing palliative care situations, and this confidence was sustained at least six weeks after the sessions.
Objective: To evaluate a new intervention intended to increase referral rates from the emergency department (ED) to the palliative medicine service (PMS) in acute hospitals.
Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation in an urban teaching hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Data were collected over two eight-week periods in November/December 2013 and May/June 2015, with the PALliative Medicine in the Emergency Department (PAL.M.ED.™) intervention implemented in the intervening period. All adults who were admitted to the hospital via the ED during the two time periods and who received a palliative care consultation during their hospital stay were included in the study. Our primary analysis evaluated the impact of PAL.M.ED.™ on PMS referral in the ED. Our secondary analysis evaluated the impact of PMS referral in the ED on length of stay (LOS) and utilization, compared to PMS referral later in the admission. We controlled for observed confounding between groups using propensity scores.
Results: PAL.M.ED.™ was associated with an increase in PMS referral in the ED (p < 0.005; odds ratio: 10.5 (95%CI: 3.8 to 28.7)). PMS referral in the ED was associated with shorter hospital LOS (p < 0.005; -10.9 days (95%CI: -17.7 to -4.1)).
Conclusions: Low PMS referral rates in the ED, and the poor outcomes for patients and hospitals that arise from admissions of those with serious illness, may be mitigated by a proactive intervention to identify appropriate patients at admission.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of people at the end of life can face significant financial burden. While appropriate financial support can reduce the burden for family caregivers, little is known about the range and adequacy of financial support, welfare and benefits for family caregivers across countries with similarly developed health care systems.
AIM: The aim is o identify and compare sources of financial support for family caregivers of people approaching the end of life, across six countries with similarly performing health care systems (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States).
DESIGN: A survey of financial support, welfare and benefits for end of life family caregivers was completed by 99 palliative care experts from the six countries. Grey literature searches and academic database searches were also conducted. Comparative analyses of all data sources documented financial support within and between each country.
RESULTS: Some form of financial support for family caregivers is available in all six countries; however the type, extent and reach of support vary. Financial support is administered by multiple agencies, eligibility criteria for receiving support are numerous and complex, and there is considerable inequity in the provision of support.
CONCLUSION: Numerous barriers exist to the receipt of financial support, welfare and benefits. We identified several areas of concern, including a lack of clarity around eligibility, inconsistent implementation, complexity in process and limited support for working carers. Nonetheless, there is significant potential for policymakers to learn from other countries' experiences, particularly with regard to the scope and operationalisation of financial support.
Background: The death of a child can have significant emotional effects on doctors responsible for their care. Trainee doctors working in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) may be particularly vulnerable. The aim of this study was to examine the emotional impact of, and grief reactions to, a child's death in PICU trainee doctors, along with coping strategies they used.
Methods: In a prospective, cross-sectional, observational study, qualitative and quantitative data were recorded on anonymised, written questionnaires. Grief severity was assessed using the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief. Emotional impact was assessed using the shortened Impact of Event Scale. The BriefCOPE tool was used to assess coping strategies. Qualitative data was analysed using conventional content analysis. Data are presented as median (inter-quartile range) or number (%).
Results: All invited trainee doctors (23 anaesthetists; 5 paediatricians) completed the questionnaire (age, 30 [29-34] yr; 13/28 [46%] female). Two (7%) doctors experienced severe grief (Texas Revised Inventory of Grief score <39), with five (18%) doctors severely affected by the deaths as measured by the Impact of Event Scale. Qualitative analysis revealed prominent themes of sadness, helplessness, guilt, shock, and concern for the bereaved family. There was limited use of coping strategies. Speaking with another trainee doctor was the principal coping strategy. Requests for debriefing sessions, greater psychological support and follow-up with the patient's family were frequently suggested.
Conclusions: Paediatric deaths evoke significant grief and emotional reactions in a subset of PICU trainee doctors. Trainee PICU doctors highlighted a lack of professional support and tailored debriefs.
BACKGROUND: Building palliative care capacity among all healthcare practitioners caring for patients with chronic illnesses, who do not work in specialist palliative care services (non-specialist palliative care), is fundamental in providing more responsive and sustainable palliative care. Varying terminology such as 'generalist', 'basic' and 'a palliative approach' are used to describe this care but do not necessarily mean the same thing. Internationally, there are also variations between levels of palliative care which means that non-specialist palliative care may be applied inconsistently in practice because of this. Thus, a systematic exploration of the concept of non-specialist palliative care is warranted.
AIM: To advance conceptual, theoretical and operational understandings of and clarity around the concept of non-specialist palliative care.
DESIGN: The principle-based method of concept analysis, from the perspective of four overarching principles, such as epistemological, pragmatic, logical and linguistic, were used to analyse non-specialist palliative care.
DATA SOURCES: The databases of CINAHL, PubMed, PsycINFO, The Cochrane Library and Embase were searched. Additional searches of grey literature databases, key text books, national palliative care policies and websites of chronic illness and palliative care organisations were also undertaken.
CONCLUSION: Essential attributes of non-specialist palliative care were identified but were generally poorly measured and understood in practice. This concept is strongly associated with quality of life, holism and patient-centred care, and there was blurring of roles and boundaries particularly with specialist palliative care. Non-specialist palliative care is conceptually immature, presenting a challenge for healthcare practitioners on how this clinical care may be planned, delivered and measured.
Use of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is an established therapy for the prevention of sudden cardiac death. However, at the end of life, these devices can prolong the dying experience, causing physical and psychological trauma. Patients are often unaware of their options regarding ICD management at the end of their life, which highlights the need for health professionals to have these discussions with patients. This study aimed to identify patients' knowledge and opinions about their ICD and the factors influencing their knowledge and opinions. Of the 30 participants in this study, 59% had sufficient knowledge about ICDs. There was no relationship between knowledge and time since implantation (p=0.11). A relationship existed between knowledge and age; those that were older were better informed (p=0.008). The authors conclude that patient education and communication are essential for patients with ICDs to enhance decision-making about ICD management at the end of life.
OBJECTIVES: Delirium is common in palliative care settings. Management includes detection, treatment of cause(s), non-pharmacological interventions and family support; strategies which are supported with varying levels of evidence. Emerging evidence suggests that antipsychotic use should be minimised in managing mild to moderate severity delirium, but the integration of this evidence into clinical practice is unknown.
METHODS: A 21-question online anonymous survey was emailed to Association for Palliative Medicine members in current clinical practice (n=859), asking about delirium assessment, management and research priorities.
RESULTS: Response rate was 39%: 70% of respondents were palliative medicine consultants. Delirium guidelines were used by some: 42% used local guidelines but 38% used none. On inpatient admission, 59% never use a delirium screening tool. Respondents would use non-pharmacological interventions to manage delirium, either alone (39%) or with an antipsychotic (58%). Most respondents (91%) would prescribe an antipsychotic and 6% a benzodiazepine, for distressing hallucinations unresponsive to non-pharmacological measures. Inpatient (57%) and community teams (60%) do not formally support family carers. Research priorities were delirium prevention, management and prediction of reversibility.
CONCLUSION: This survey of UK and Irish Palliative Medicine specialists shows that delirium screening at inpatient admission is suboptimal. Most specialists continue to use antipsychotics in combination with non-pharmacological interventions to manage delirium. More support for family carers should be routinely provided by clinical teams. Further rigorously designed clinical trials are urgently needed in view of management variability, emerging evidence and perceived priorities for research.
OBJECTIVES: An increasing number of patients with motor neuron disease (MND) in the UK and Ireland use assisted ventilation, and a small proportion of these use long-term tracheostomy ventilation (TV).1 2 NICE guidelines recommend that patients with MND should routinely receive specialist palliative care input. The aim was to establish the extent to which hospices and specialist palliative care units (SPCUs) in the UK and Ireland currently manage patients with MND using assisted ventilation especially TV and to identify any associated barriers.
METHODS: A 25-item questionnaire was developed in Survey Monkey. A link to the questionnaire was emailed to every medical director (n=185) of inpatient hospices/SPCUs in the UK and Ireland.
RESULTS: The response rate was 42.4% (n=78). 97.4% of units admit patients with MND on non-invasive ventilation (NIV), but only 28.2% admit those using TV. 80.8% of units have adequate expertise in the management of NIV, compared with 7.7% for managing TV. 35.9% and 2.6% of units have a policy for managing patients using NIV and TV, respectively. 14.1% respondents had been involved in the care of patients with MND using TV, in the specialist palliative care setting in the last 5 years.
CONCLUSIONS: A minority of UK and Irish hospices/SPUs provide support to TV MND patients and few units currently have management or admission policies for this cohort of patients. Respondents indicated a lack of appropriate expertise and experience. Further exploration of these barriers is required to establish how to optimise care for TV MND patients in this setting.
OBJECTIVE: As advances in prenatal diagnosis increasingly enable detection of life-limiting conditions, end-of-life care may start before birth. Termination of these pregnancies may have been default management, but in the Republic of Ireland, where termination is not a legal option, skilled experience in caring for mothers who continue their pregnancies has developed. This study examines the lived experience of four such mothers.
METHOD: A qualitative study was designed using interpretive phenomenological analysis, which examined the maternal experience of continuing pregnancy with a prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly. Four mothers participated in semi-structured interviews on their experience of pregnancy and delivery of a baby with anencephaly.
RESULTS: A profoundly emotional journey represented an adaptive grieving process, which culminated in rich experiences of transformative growth for all the parents. The parents' relationship with their caregivers facilitated this process and the development of a meaningful parenting relationship with their babies. This positive finding coexists alongside a parallel experience of ongoing deep sense of loss and sadness.
CONCLUSION: Perinatal palliative care for those with a prenatal lethal diagnosis is a positive life experience for some mothers. The role of relationship with healthcare professionals is vital to the process and consideration must be given to a comprehensive multi-disciplinary team approach.