Objectives: The aim of this work is to describe the multidisciplinary model of intervention applied and the characteristics of some COVID-19 patients assisted by the hospital palliative care unit (UCP-H) of an Italian hospital in Lombardy, the Italian region most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted on patients admitted to the A. Manzoni Hospital (Lecco, Lombardy Region, Italy) and referred to the UCP-H between 11 March 2020 and 18 April 2020, the period of maximum spread of COVID-19 in this area. Data were collected on the type of hospitalisation, triage process, modality of palliative care and psychological support provided.
Results: 146 COVID-10 patients were referred to the UCP-H. Of these, 120 died during the observation time (82%) while 15 (10.2%) improved and were discharged from the UCP-H care. 93 had less favourable characteristics (rapid deterioration of respiratory function, old age, multiple comorbidities) and an intensive clinical approach was considered contraindicated, while 48 patients had more favourable presentations. Mean follow-up was 4.8 days. A mean of 4.3 assessments per patient were performed. As to respiratory support, 94 patients were treated with oxygen only (at different volumes) and 45 with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
Conclusion: The ongoing pandemic highlighted the need for dedicated palliative care teams and units for dying patients. This work highlights how palliative medicine specialist can make a fundamental contribution thanks to their ability and work experience in an organised multiprofessional context.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning (ACP) supports individuals to define, discuss, and record goals and preferences for future medical treatment and care. Despite being internationally recommended, randomised clinical trials of ACP in patients with advanced cancer are scarce.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: To test the implementation of ACP in patients with advanced cancer, we conducted a cluster-randomised trial in 23 hospitals across Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, and United Kingdom in 2015-2018. Patients with advanced lung (stage III/IV) or colorectal (stage IV) cancer, WHO performance status 0-3, and at least 3 months life expectancy were eligible. The ACTION Respecting Choices ACP intervention as offered to patients in the intervention arm included scripted ACP conversations between patients, family members, and certified facilitators; standardised leaflets; and standardised advance directives. Control patients received care as usual. Main outcome measures were quality of life (operationalised as European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer [EORTC] emotional functioning) and symptoms. Secondary outcomes were coping, patient satisfaction, shared decision-making, patient involvement in decision-making, inclusion of advance directives (ADs) in hospital files, and use of hospital care. In all, 1,117 patients were included (442 intervention; 675 control), and 809 (72%) completed the 12-week questionnaire. Patients' age ranged from 18 to 91 years, with a mean of 66; 39% were female. The mean number of ACP conversations per patient was 1.3. Fidelity was 86%. Sixteen percent of patients found ACP conversations distressing. Mean change in patients' quality of life did not differ between intervention and control groups (T-score -1.8 versus -0.8, p = 0.59), nor did changes in symptoms, coping, patient satisfaction, and shared decision-making. Specialist palliative care (37% versus 27%, p = 0.002) and AD inclusion in hospital files (10% versus 3%, p < 0.001) were more likely in the intervention group. A key limitation of the study is that recruitment rates were lower in intervention than in control hospitals.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that quality of life effects were not different between patients who had ACP conversations and those who received usual care. The increased use of specialist palliative care and AD inclusion in hospital files of intervention patients is meaningful and requires further study. Our findings suggest that alternative approaches to support patient-centred end-of-life care in this population are needed.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN registry ISRCTN63110516.
Background: Cancer patients experience multiple symptoms throughout the course of the disease. We aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the symptom burden in patients with advanced cancer at admission to specialist palliative care (PC) services and seven days later to estimate the immediate impact of PC intervention.
Patient and methods: The analysis was based on an observational, prospective, multicenter study (named DEMETRA) conducted in Italy on new patients accessing network specialist PC centers during the period May 2017-November 2017. The prevalence and intensity of symptoms were assessed at baseline and after seven days using three tools including the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS).
Results: Five PC centers recruited 865 cancer patients. Thirty-three different symptoms were observed at the baseline, the most frequent being asthenia (84.9%) and poor well-being (71%). The intensity of the most frequent symptoms according to ESAS ranged from 5.5 for asthenia to 3.9 for nausea. The presence and intensity of physical symptoms increased with increasing levels of anxiety and depression. After seven days, prevalence of nausea and breathlessness as well as intensity of almost all symptoms significantly decreased.
Conclusions: The study confirmed the considerable symptom burden of patients with advanced cancer. PC intervention has significantly reduced the severity of symptoms, despite the patients' advanced disease and short survival.
BACKGROUND: The interprofessional approach is part of the philosophy in palliative care, and its benefits are already documented. However, there are no evidence regarding the process through which the interprofessional team faces the process of the patient's end-of-life and how this experience might be of value for the team's development itself. The aim of this study was to analyse and understand the psychosocial processes that occurs when an interprofessional team accompanies patients and their families to death in palliative care, with the ultimate aim to develop a substantive theory to describe this phenomenon.
METHODS: A Grounded Theory method, as theorized by Strauss and Corbin, was adopted for this study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and then independently analysed using constant comparison analysis. Fourteen healthcare professionals - belonging to different disciplines (doctor, nurse coordinator, nurse, nurse assistant, psychologist) - were interviewed in a Northern Italy palliative care facility.
FINDINGS: The core category of this study was identified to be the process of accompaniment of the dying patient as an interprofessional ecosystem. Moreover, the results showed four main factors determining the development of the core psychosocial process: from professionals' 'Hidden Amazement' to 'Onerous Happiness' where 'Weaving of Professional Resources' and 'Work Meaning' are the underlying conditions to catalyse the process itself.
CONCLUSION: Interprofessional care appears an essential value, which becomes the source of the team's strength when facing end-of-life experiences. Health policies and organisations should take the importance of the characteristics of the work environment more carefully. The meaning that professionals attribute to their work and to the team itself, indeed, it may have impact on the overall quality of care and contribute to sustain work engagement, even in stressful situations like end-of-life care.
PURPOSE: Defining patients as 'terminally-ill' may be difficult. Therefore, determining when to shift the goal of care from curative to comfort care may be extremely challenging. The aim of this study was to merge when and how Registered Nurses (RNs) and Nurses' Assistants (NAs) adjust end-of-life care to pursue patient comfort at the end of their lives.
METHODS: A descriptive qualitative study based on multiple focus groups was performed in 2017 according to the COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research guidelines. In all, 25 RNs and 16 NAs across seven north-east Italian facilities that provide end-of-life care, voluntarily participated in the study. Each focus group was conducted following the same interview guide with open-ended questions, and was audiotaped. A thematic analysis was applied to interview transcripts.
RESULTS: The process of nursing care plan adjustment is based upon two main themes, around 'when' and 'how' to adjust it. Regarding when, 'Detecting the turning point', and 'Being ready to change continuously until the end' emerged as the main sub-themes. Regarding how, 'Weighing harms and benefits of nursing care interventions'; 'Advocating for patients' wishes', 'Sharing the adjustments inside the team at different levels', 'Involving family in the adjustments of nursing care'; and 'Allowing care to move away from evidence-based practice' were the sub-themes emerged.
CONCLUSIONS: Shedding light on the implicit decisional processes that inform care adjustments and the implementation of related strategies is essential to improve the quality of end-of-life care given that an early detection of the terminal phase has been reported to result in changes of care improving outcomes.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning and advance directives play a key role in the care of life-threatening illnesses such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
AIM: The aim of the present study is to explore how the introduction of these features by law improves the experience of end-of-life care.
DESIGN: Five focus groups were conducted in Italy 1 year after the new law on advance directives was introduced.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sampling was used to recruit 24 health professionals and 23 family caregivers of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for a total of 47 participants.
RESULTS: The thematic analysis, conducted through the use of ATLAS.ti software, identified four thematic areas: best practices, managing difficulties, care relationships and proposals. The results indicated a lack of organization, collaboration and continuity on the part of healthcare services and professionals, a lack of information on palliative care, advance care planning, and advance directives. End-of-life care is often left to the good will of the individual professional. Difficulties can also derive from ethical dilemmas concerning end-of-life decision-making and from a lack of communication and relationships between health professionals, patients and their families.
CONCLUSION: The introduction of advance directives by law has not been sufficient to improve end-of-life care. In order to make legal regulation effective, the organization of healthcare services needs to be improved and clearer procedures have to be implemented and shared with patients and families.
Context: The Cancer Dyspnea Scale (CDS) is a self-reported multidimensional tool used for the assessment of dyspnea, a subjective experience of breathing discomfort, in cancer patients. The scale describes dyspnea using three distinct factors: physical, psychological and discomfort at rest.
Objective: to cross-cultural validate the Italian version of CDS (CDS-IT) and examine its content validity, feasibility, internal consistency and construct validity in patients with advanced cancer.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted. CDS-IT was forward-backward translated, and its content was validated among a group of experts. Cronbach’s a coefficients was used to assess the internal consistency. Construct validity was examined in terms of structural validity through confirmatory factor analysis and convergent validity with Dyspnea Visual Analogue Scale (VAS-D) through the Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). Cancer Quality of life (EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL) and Italian Palliative Outcome Scale (IPOS) were also tested.
Results: The CDS-IT was cross-cultural validated and showed satisfactory content validity. A total of 101 patients (mean age: 76 (SD 12), 53% of female) were recruited in palliative care settings. CDS-IT reported a good internal consistency in the total score and its factors (a=0.74-0.83). The factor analysis corresponded acceptably, but not completely with the original study. CDS-IT strongly correlated with VAS-D (r=0.68) and moderately with IPOS and EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL (r=0.33-0.36, respectively).
Conclusions: The study findings supported the cross-cultural validity of the CDS-IT. Its feasibility, internal consistency and construct validity are satisfactory for clinical practice. The CDS-IT is available to healthcare professionals as a useful tool to assess dyspnea in cancer patients.
INTRODUCTION: Cancer prevalence (people alive on a certain date in a population who previously had a cancer diagnosis) is expected to increase in the United States and Europe due to improvements in survival and population aging. Examination of prevalence by phase of care allows us to identify subgroups of patients according to their care trajectories, thus allowing us to improve health care planning, resource allocation, and calculation of costs.
METHODS: A new method to estimate prevalence by phase of care using grouped data is illustrated. Prevalence is divided into 3 mutually exclusive phases: initial, continuing, and end-of-life. An application to US and Italian data is applied to prevalent cases diagnosed with colon-rectum, stomach, lung, or breast cancer.
RESULTS: The distribution of phase of care prevalence estimated by cancer type and sex and results from the two datasets are very similar. Most survivors are in the continuing phase; the end-of-life phase is larger for cancers with worse prognosis. All phases prevalence is generally higher in the Italian than in the US dataset, except for lung cancer in women, where prevalence proportion in the Italian dataset is 30% lower than in the United States.
DISCUSSION: Incidence, survival, and population age structure are the main determinants of prevalence and they can affect differences in all phases of prevalence, as well as in discrete phases. Incidence is the most influential determinant. Ours is the first study that compares prevalence by phase of care between two populations in Italy and the United States. Despite great differences in health care management in the two countries, we found extremely similar distribution of survivors by phase of care for most cancer sites under study.
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization classified COVID-19, caused by Sars-CoV-2, as a pandemic. Although not much was known about the new virus, the first outbreaks in China and Italy showed that potentially a large number of people worldwide could fall critically ill in a short period of time. A shortage of ventilators and intensive care resources was expected in many countries, leading to concerns about restrictions of medical care and preventable deaths. In order to be prepared for this challenging situation, national triage guidance has been developed or adapted from former influenza pandemic guidelines in an increasing number of countries over the past few months. In this article, we provide a comparative analysis of triage recommendations from selected national and international professional societies, including Australia/New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Pakistan, South Africa, Switzerland, the United States, and the International Society of Critical Care Medicine. We describe areas of consensus, including the importance of prognosis, patient will, transparency of the decision-making process, and psychosocial support for staff, as well as the role of justice and benefit maximization as core principles. We then probe areas of disagreement, such as the role of survival versus outcome, long-term versus short-term prognosis, the use of age and comorbidities as triage criteria, priority groups and potential tiebreakers such as 'lottery' or 'first come, first served'. Having explored a number of tensions in current guidance, we conclude with a suggestion for framework conditions that are clear, consistent and implementable. This analysis is intended to advance the ongoing debate regarding the fair allocation of limited resources and may be relevant for future policy-making.
PURPOSE: Neonatal palliative care becomes an option for critically ill neonates when death is inevitable. Assessing nurses' attitudes towards, barriers to, and facilitators of neonatal palliative care is essential to delivering effective nursing care.
METHODS: This study was conducted from January to September 2015 and involved Italian nurses employed in Level III neonatal intensive care units in 14 hospitals in northern, central, and southern Italy. A modified version of the Neonatal Palliative Care Attitudes Scale (NiPCAS) was adopted to assess nurses' attitudes.
FINDINGS: A total of 347 neonatal nurses filled out the questionnaire. The majority were female (87.6%), with a mean age of 40.38 (±8.3) years. The mean score in the "organization" factor was 2.71 (±0.96). The "resources" factor had a mean score of 2.44 (±1.00), while the "clinician" factor had a mean score of 3.36 (±0.90), indicating the main barriers to and facilitators of implementing palliative nursing care.
CONCLUSIONS: Italian neonatal nurses may face different obstacles to delivering neonatal palliative care and to improve their attitudes in this field. In the Italian context, no facilitators of, only barriers to, palliative care delivery were identified.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Nurses' attitudes towards neonatal palliative care are essential to supporting nurses, who are constantly exposed to the emotional and moral distress connected with this field of end-of-life nursing care.
CONTEXT: Certain treatments are potentially inappropriate when administered to nursing homes residents at the end of life and should be carefully considered. An international comparison of potentially inappropriate treatments allows insight into common issues and country-specific challenges of end-of-life care in nursing homes and helps direct health care policy in this area.
OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence of potentially inappropriate treatments in the last week of life in nursing home residents, and analyze the differences in prevalence between countries.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study of deceased residents in nursing homes (2015) in six European countries: Belgium (Flanders), England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Potentially inappropriate treatments included: enteral administration of nutrition, parental administration of nutrition, artificial fluids, resuscitation, artificial ventilation, blood transfusion, chemotherapy/radiotherapy, dialysis, surgery, antibiotics, statins, antidiabetics, new oral anticoagulants. Nurses were questioned about whether these treatments were administered in the last week of life.
RESULTS: We included 1,384 deceased residents from 322 nursing homes. In most countries, potentially inappropriate treatments were rarely used, with a maximum of 18.3% of residents receiving at least one treatment in Poland. Exceptions were antibiotics in all countries (between 11.3% in Belgium and 45% in Poland), artificial nutrition and hydration in Poland (54.3%) and Italy (41%) and antidiabetics in Poland (19.7%).
CONCLUSION: Although the prevalence of potentially inappropriate treatments in the last week of life was generally low, antibiotics were frequently prescribed in all countries. In Poland and Italy, the prevalence of artificial administration of food/fluids in the last week of life was high, possibly reflecting country differences in legislation, care organization and culture, and the palliative care competences of staff.
Background: Patients in palliative care are the population cohort that most frequently develop pressure injuries, severely impacting their quality of life. Data from prospective studies on the prevalence and incidence of pressure injuries in hospices are lacking.
Aim: To describe the point prevalence and cumulative incidence of pressure injuries in patients admitted to residential hospices, and to analyze their predictive factors over time.
Design: Multicentre prospective longitudinal observational study.
Setting/participants: Adult patients (n = 992) enrolled in 13 Italian residential hospices, with a minimum sample of 280 for each macro-region (North, center, South/Islands).
Methods: Assessments including the Karnofsky Performance Status, Braden, Edmonton Symptom Assessment System Revised scales and pressure injury staging according to National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel were conducted at least every four days, from admission to patients’ death/discharge.
Results: The 7,967 observations recorded provided prevalence and incidence rates of 34.1% and 26.5%, respectively. The logistic regression model showed non-cancer disease (OR = 2.39, 95%CI = 1.65–3.47), age >80 (OR = 2.01, 95%CI = 1.49–2.71), Braden score ‘at risk’ (OR = 1.92, 95%CI = 1.17–3.14), urinary catheter (OR = 1.96, 95%CI = 1.40–2.75), drowsiness (OR = 1.41, 95%CI = 1.02–1.95) and artificial nutrition (OR = 1.47, 95%CI = 1.01–2.14) as the variables associated with pressure injury at admission. The generalized estimating equations models, built on the timeframes for observation groups, revealed male gender (OR = 1.68, 95%CI = 1.01–2.79) and Braden score ‘at risk’ (OR = 4.45, 95%CI = 1.74–11.34) as predictive factors of a new pressure injury developed up to three weeks before a patient's death, while in the last ten days of life these predictors were replaced by diagnosis of cancer (OR = 1.80, 95%CI = 1.11–2.91), worsening pain (OR = 1.65, 95%CI = 1.10–2.49), drowsiness (OR = 1.79, 95%CI = 1.25–2.57) and dyspnea (OR = 1.48, 95%CI = 1.01–2.18).
Conclusions: The high incidence and prevalence of pressure injuries confirm the importance of palliative care nurses continuously focusing on prevention and management strategies. In the last three weeks of a patient's life, the predictive power of the Braden scale for a new pressure injury is not confirmed, throwing doubt on the effectiveness of aimed interventions at modifying risk factors. Along the different disease trajectories, pressure injuries developed during the instability/worsening phases of illness, occurring before hospice admission for non-cancer patients and in the end-of-life phase for cancer patients. Despite continuous provision of appropriate interventions, most of the new pressure injuries were detected during the last ten days of a patient's’ life and assessed as 'unavoidable'. These results are crucial to guiding palliative care nursing plans during the different phases of illness, and to predicting care needs, possible management strategies (‘wound management’ vs. ‘wound palliation’), and resource utilization.
Lockdown measures have had an impact on the stress levels and mental health of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the effect that lockdown has had on paediatric palliative care (PPC) has been poorly investigated. We measured adaptive responses and routine changes in 88 families, by asking parents covered by our PPC Network to complete a telephone questionnaire that was administered by a Network psychologist between 7 and 17 April 2020.
BACKGROUND: Hospital palliative care is an essential part of the COVID-19 response, but relevant data are lacking. The recent literature underscores the need to implement protocols for symptom control and the training of non-specialists by palliative care teams.
AIM: The aim of the study was to describe a palliative care unit's consultation and assistance intervention at the request of an Infectious Diseases Unit during the COVID-19 pandemic, determining what changes needed to be made in delivering palliative care.
DESIGN: This is a single holistic case study design using data triangulation, for example, audio recordings of team meetings and field notes.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: This study was conducted in the Palliative Care Unit of the AUSL-IRCCS hospital of Reggio Emilia, which has no designated beds, consulting with the Infectious Diseases Unit of the same hospital.
RESULTS: A total of 9 physicians and 22 nurses of the Infectious Diseases Unit and two physicians of the Palliative Care Unit participated in the study.Our Palliative Care Unit developed a feasible 18-day multicomponent consultation intervention. Three macro themes were identified: (1) new answers to new needs, (2) symptom relief and decision-making process, and (3) educational and training issues.
CONCLUSION: From the perspective of palliative care, some changes in usual care needed to be made. These included breaking bad news, patients' use of communication devices, the limited time available for the delivery of care, managing death necessarily only inside the hospital, and relationships with families.
Death, bereavement, and grief are part of everyone's life experience. In the last few decades, media and social network platforms gradually began to influence people's ways of perceiving and coping with death and dying, and the research on the phenomenon of digital death is growing. Facebook is one of the most known and used social networks, and one of the few that developed specific measures to manage the profile pages of the deceased users. Based on these premises, this survey aimed to investigate how 1281 Italian participants, aged 14-77 years old, approach death on Facebook with respect to their opinions, attitudes, and emotional reactions, through an ad-hoc online survey. The results highlight how the participants seem to have different attitudes and emotions toward death, grief and mourning on the social network platform. The age of the participants seems to influence the use of the social network and the attitudes and the emotions toward the topic of investigation. Moreover, for this Italian sample, the custom of grieving and commemorating on social media is starting to spread along with the usual cultural practices without replacing them.
In order to plan the right palliative care for patients and their families, it is essential to have detailed information about patients' needs. To gain insight into these needs, we analyzed five Italian local palliative care networks and assessed the clinical care conditions of patients facing the complexities of advanced and chronic disease. A longitudinal, observational, noninterventional study was carried out in five Italian regions from May 2017 to November 2018. Patients who accessed the palliative care networks were monitored for 12 months. Sociodemographic, clinical, and symptom information was collected with several tools, including the Necesidades Paliativas CCOMS-ICO (NECPAL) tool, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and interRAI Palliative Care (interRAI-PC). There were 1013 patients in the study. The majority (51.7%) were recruited at home palliative care units. Cancer was the most frequent diagnosis (85.4%), and most patients had at least one comorbidity (58.8%). Cancer patients reported emotional stress with severe symptoms (38.7% vs. 24.3% in noncancer patients; p = 0.001) and were less likely to have clinical frailty (13.3% vs. 43.9%; p < 0.001). Our study confirms that many patients face the last few months of life with comorbidities or extreme frailty. This study contributes to increasing the general knowledge on palliative care needs in a high-income country.
BACKGROUND: Quality of care for patients dying in hospital remains suboptimal. A major problem is the identification of valid sources of information about the views and experiences of dying patients and their relatives.
AIM: This study aimed to estimate the agreement on quality of end-of-life care from the perspectives of bereaved relatives, physicians and nurses interviewed after the patients' death.
DESIGN: In this prospective study, we interviewed, after the patient death, the bereaved relatives, the attending physicians and the reference nurses, using the Toolkit After-death Family Interview and the View Of Informal Carers-Evaluation of Services (VOICES). Agreement was assessed using Lin's concordance correlation coefficient, Cohen's kappa, overall concordance correlation coefficient and Fleiss' kappa.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: We enrolled a consecutive series of 40 adult patients who died of cancer between January and December 2016 who had spent at least 48 hours in the medical oncology ward of the Santa Maria Hospital of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
RESULTS: We interviewed all physicians and nurses, and 26 (65.0%) out of 40 relatives. We found a poor agreement on overall quality of care among the three proxies (+0.21; -0.04 to 0.44), between relatives and nurses (+0.05; -0.39 to +0.47), and between relatives and physicians (+0.25; -0.13 to +0.57). A similar poor agreement was observed for all the other Toolkit and VOICES scales.
CONCLUSIONS: The agreement was rather poor, confirming previous results in different settings. Information from professional proxies should not be used for assessing the quality of care or for estimating missing information from bereaved relatives.
OBJECTIVES: Family carers (FCs) of nursing home (NH) residents are best placed to notice deteriorations that signal impending death in their relative, which can open a conversation with healthcare professionals (HCPs) about adjusting the care plan. We explored contributors to bereaved FCs' decision to transition towards palliative-oriented care for their relatives in NHs.
METHODS: This qualitative descriptive study used a phenomenological design. Thirty-two bereaved FCs across 13 Italian NHs completed semi-structured interviews. Additional data were collected on NH referrals to palliative care services (PCS) in the 6 months before study start and treatments provided in the last week of life. Content analysis with a combined inductive and deductive approach was applied to identify codes and fit them into an a priori framework. When codes did not fit, they were grouped into new categories, which were finally gathered into themes.
RESULTS: FCs reported four types of "trigger events" that made them doubt that their relative would recover: (1) physical deterioration (e.g., stopping eating/walking or swallowing problems); (2) social confirmation (e.g., confirming their relative's condition with friends); (3) multiple hospitalizations; and (4) external indicators (e.g., medical examinations by external consultants). A "resident-centered environment" helped FCs recognize trigger events and "raise awareness of the possibility of death"; however, the "need for reassurance" was pivotal to a "gradual transition towards palliative-oriented care". When participants did not recognize the trigger event, their relative continued to receive curative-oriented care. NHs that referred residents to PCS discussed palliative-oriented care more frequently with FCs, had a lower nurse-to-resident and nurse aide-to-resident ratio, and administered more palliative-oriented care.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Trigger events represent an opportunity to discuss residents' prognosis and are the starting point for a gradual transition towards palliative-oriented care. Adequate staffing, teamwork, and communication between FCs and healthcare professionals contribute to a sensitive, timely shift in care goals.
Background: The EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL is a shortened version of the widely used EORTC QLQ-C30. This questionnaire was developed to measure the symptoms and functional health of patients receiving palliative care.
Objective: To enhance clinical interpretability of the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL, our aim was to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of thresholds for clinical importance developed previously for the QLQ-C30 when applied to the QLQ-C15-PAL scales.
Design: Cross-sectional observational study.
Setting/Subjects: Patients with cancer receiving any type of palliative treatment.
Measurement: Patients completed the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL and anchor items on limitations, worries, and need for help for each of the health domains covered by the questionnaire. The anchor items were summarized in a binary criterion for clinical importance to calculate the sensitivity and specificity of the thresholds for clinical importance.
Results: In total, 225 patients participated in the study (mean age 64.5 years). Patients were recruited from Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The thresholds for clinical importance for the QLQ-C15-PAL scales showed a median sensitivity of 0.88 (range: 0.82 for sleep disturbances to 1.00 for dyspnea) and a median specificity of 0.74 (range: 0.54 for dyspnea to 0.89 for constipation).
Conclusion: The thresholds for clinical importance showed high sensitivity and mostly high specificity in identifying clinically important symptoms and functional health impairments as assessed by the QLQ-C15-PAL. These thresholds will facilitate interpretation of EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL scores in daily clinical practice and clinical research.
In late February and early March 2020, Italy became the European epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite increasingly stringent containment measures enforced by the government, the health system faced an enormous pressure, and extraordinary efforts were made in order to increase overall hospital beds' availability and especially ICU capacity. Nevertheless, the hardest-hit hospitals in Northern Italy experienced a shortage of ICU beds and resources that led to hard allocating choices. At the beginning of March 2020, the Italian Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation, and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) issued recommendations aimed at supporting physicians in prioritizing patients when the number of critically ill patients overwhelm the capacity of ICUs. One motivating concern for the SIAARTI guidance was that, if no balanced and consistent allocation procedures were applied to prioritize patients, there would be a concrete risk for unfair choices, and that the prevalent "first come, first served" principle would lead to many avoidable deaths. Among the drivers of decision for admission to ICUs, age, comorbidities, and preexisting functional status were included. The recommendations were criticized as ageist and potentially discriminatory against elderly patients. Looking forward to the next steps, the Italian experience can be relevant to other parts of the world that are yet to see a significant surge of COVID-19: the need for transparent triage criteria and commonly shared values give the Italian recommendations even greater legitimacy.