BACKGROUND: Despite increased annual mortality in long-term care (LTC) homes, research has shown that care of dying residents and their families is currently suboptimal in these settings. The purpose of this study was to evaluate resident and family outcomes associated with the Strengthening a Palliative Approach in LTC (SPA-LTC) program, developed to help encourage meaningful end of life discussions and planning.
METHODS: The study employs a mixed method design in four LTC homes across Southern Ontario. Data were collected from residents and families of the LTC homes through chart reviews, interviews, and focus groups. Interviews with family who attended a Palliative Care Conference included both closed-ended and open-ended questions.
RESULTS: In total, 39 residents/families agreed to participate in the study. Positive intervention outcomes included a reduction in the proportion of emergency department use at end of life and hospital deaths for those participating in SPA-LTC, improved support for families, and increased family involvement in the care of residents. For families who attended a Palliative Care Conference, both quantitative and qualitative findings revealed that families benefited from attending them. Residents stated that they appreciated learning about a palliative approach to care and being informed about their current status.
CONCLUSIONS: The benefits of SPA-LTC for residents and families justify its continued use within LTC. Study results also suggest that certain enhancements of the program could further promote future integration of best practices within a palliative approach to care within the LTC context. However, the generalizability of these results across LTC homes in different regions and countries is limited given the small sample size.
OBJECTIVE: Quality end-of-life (EOL) care is critical for dying residents and their family/friend caregivers. While best practices to support resident comfort at EOL in long-term care (LTC) homes are emerging, research rarely explores if and how the type of care received at EOL may contribute to caregivers' perceptions of a good death. To address this gap, this study explored how care practices at EOL contributed to caregivers' perceptions of a good resident death.
METHOD: This study used a retrospective cross-sectional survey design. Seventy-eight participants whose relative or friend died in one of five LTC homes in Canada completed self-administered questionnaires on their perceptions of EOL care and perceptions of a good resident death.
RESULTS: Overall, caregivers reported positive experiences with EOL care and perceived residents to have died a good death. However, communication regarding what to expect in the final days of life and attention to spiritual issues were often missing components of care. Further, when explored alongside direct resident care, family support, and rooming conditions, staff communication was the only aspect of EOL care significantly associated with caregivers' perceptions of a good resident death.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The findings of this study suggest that the critical role staff in LTC play in supporting caregivers' perceptions of a good resident death. By keeping caregivers informed about expectations at the very end of life, staff can enhance caregivers' perceptions of a good resident death. Further, by addressing spiritual issues staff may improve caregivers' perceptions that residents were at peace when they died.
Background: Residents living and dying in long-term care (LTC) homes represent one of society's most frail and marginalized populations of older adults, particularly those residents with advanced dementia who are often excluded from activities that promote quality of life in their last months of life. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and effects of Namaste Care: an innovative program to improve end-of-life care for people with advanced dementia.
Methods: This study used a mixed-method survey design to evaluate the Namaste Care program in two LTC homes in Canada. Pain, quality of life, and medication costs were assessed for 31 residents before and 6 months after they participated in Namaste Care. The program consisted of two 2-h sessions per day for 5 days per week. Namaste Care staff provided high sensory care to residents in a calm, therapeutic environment in a small group setting. Feasibility was assessed in terms of recruitment rate, number of sessions attended, retention rate, and any adverse events. Acceptability was assessed using qualitative interviews with staff and family.
Results: The feasibility of Namaste Care was acceptable with a participation rate of 89%. However, participants received only 72% of the sessions delivered and only 78% stayed in the program for at least 3 months due to mortality. After attending Namaste Care, participants' pain and quality of life improved and medication costs decreased. Family members and staff perceived the program to be beneficial, noting positive changes in residents. The majority of participants were very satisfied with the program, providing suggestions for ongoing engagement throughout the implementation process.
Conclusions: These study findings support the implementation of the Namaste Care program in Canadian LTC homes to improve the quality of life for residents. However, further testing is needed on a larger scale.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to conduct a stakeholder analysis of the strengthening a palliative approach to long-term care (SPA-LTC) model and refine it based on feedback from long-term care (LTC) residents and their families, staff, researchers and decision makers.
METHODS: We used a mixed-methods design to conduct a stakeholder analysis of the SPA-LTC model that consisted of two sequential components: qualitative focus groups with LTC staff followed by a quantitative survey with key stakeholders.
RESULTS: Twenty-one LTC staff provided feedback about the SPA-LTC model after residents relocated to LTC, during advanced illness and at end of life and in the period of grief and bereavement. This feedback helped to guide revisions of the model. According to the survey results, the SPA-LTC model was well received by 35 stakeholders, but its feasibility was questioned.
CONCLUSION: The Canadian SPA-LTC model is evidence based and endorsed by LTC staff and stakeholders. Efforts are needed to determine the feasibility of implementing the model to ensure that residents' needs are made a priority while in LTC.
OBJECTIVE: The goal of this scoping review was to identify existing palliative models in long-term care (LTC) homes and differentiate between the key components of each in terms of training/capacity-building strategies; resident, family and staff support; and advance care planning (ACP) and goals-of-care discussions.
METHODS: We conducted a scoping review based on established methods to summarize the international literature on palliative models and programs for LTC. We analyzed the data using tabular summaries and content analysis.
RESULTS: We extracted data from 46 articles related to palliative programs, training/capacity building, family support, ACP and goals of care. Study results highlighted that three key components are needed in a palliative program in LTC: (1) training and capacity building; (2) support for residents, family and staff; and (3) ACP, goals-of-care discussion and informed consent.
CONCLUSION: This scoping review provided important information about key components to be included in a palliative program in LTC. Future work is needed to develop a model that suits the unique characteristics in the Canadian context.
OBJECTIVE: The Canadian province of Quebec has recently legalized medical aid in dying (MAID) for competent patients who satisfy strictly defined criteria. The province is considering extending the practice to incompetent patients. We compared the attitudes of four groups of stakeholders toward extending MAID to incompetent patients with dementia.
METHODS: We conducted a province-wide postal survey in random samples of older adults, informal caregivers of persons with dementia, nurses, and physicians caring for patients with dementia. Clinical vignettes featuring a patient with Alzheimer's disease were used to measure the acceptability of extending MAID to incompetent patients with dementia. Vignettes varied according to the stage of the disease (advanced or terminal) and type of request (written or oral only). We used the generalized estimating equation (GEE) approach to compare attitudes across groups and vignettes.
RESULTS: Response rates ranged from 25% for physicians to 69% for informal caregivers. In all four groups, the proportion of respondents who felt it was acceptable to extend MAID to an incompetent patient with dementia was highest when the patient was at the terminal stage, showed signs of distress, and had written a MAID request prior to losing capacity. In those circumstances, this proportion ranged from 71% among physicians to 91% among informal caregivers.
CONCLUSION: We found high support in Quebec for extending the current MAID legislation to incompetent patients with dementia who have reached the terminal stage, appear to be suffering, and had requested MAID in writing while still competent.
The purpose of this study was to analyse the consistency and extent of palliative content across high-level guiding documents related to the care of persons residing in Canadian long-term care homes. A systematic search was conducted examining documents at the national level and across five provinces (Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec). Twenty-five documents were selected based on inclusion criteria from 273 documents identified in the systematic search. The majority of these documents were created nationally (48%) or in Ontario (28%). Documents varied in palliative topics discussed, and long-term care was discussed minimally. A minimal number of palliative care guiding documents were found. Long-term care specific documents were absent, and all documents lacked consistency on palliative topics. It is imperative that palliative principles are present and consistent in high-level documents in order to improve the quality of life and care for long-term care residents across Canada.
The average expected lifespan in Canadian long-term care (LTC) homes is now less than two years post-admission, making LTC a palliative care setting. As little is known about the readiness of LTC staff in Canada to embrace a palliative care mandate, the main objective of this study was to assess qualities relevant to palliative care, including personal emotional wellbeing, palliative care self-efficacy and person-centred practices (e.g. knowing the person, comfort care). A convenience sample of 228 professional and non-professional staff (e.g. nurses and nursing assistants) across four Canadian LTC homes participated in a survey. Burnout, secondary traumatic stress and poor job satisfaction were well below accepted thresholds, e.g. burnout: mean = 20.49 (standard deviation (SD) = 5.39) for professionals; mean = 22.09 (SD = 4.98) for non-professionals; cut score = 42. Furthermore, only 0–1 per cent of each group showed a score above cut-off for any of these variables. Reported self-efficacy was moderate, e.g. efficacy in delivery: mean = 18.63 (SD = 6.29) for professionals; mean = 15.33 (SD = 7.52) for non-professionals; maximum = 32. The same was true of self-reported person-centred care, e.g. knowing the person; mean = 22.05 (SD = 6.55) for professionals; mean = 22.91 (SD = 6.16) for non-professionals; maximum = 35. t-Tests showed that non-professional staff reported relatively higher levels of burnout, while professional staff reported greater job satisfaction and self-efficacy (p < 0.05). There was no difference in secondary traumatic stress or person-centred care (p > 0.05). Overall, these results suggest that the emotional wellbeing of the Canadian LTC workforce is unlikely to impede effective palliative care. However, palliative care self-efficacy and person-centred care can be further cultivated in this context.
OBJECTIVES: With an increased dependency on nursing homes to provide care to the ageing population, it is likely that ethical issues will also increase. This study aimed to identify the type of ethical issues and level of associated distress experienced by nurses providing palliative care in nursing homes in the UK and Canada, and pilot the Ethical issues in Palliative Care for Nursing Homes (EPiCNH) instrument in Canada.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey design was used. One hundred and twenty-three nurses located in 21 nursing homes across the UK and Canada completed the EPiCNH instrument.
RESULTS: Frequent ethical issues include upholding resident autonomy, managing family distress, lack of staff communication and lack of time in both countries. Higher levels of distress resulted from poor communication, insufficient training, lack of time and family disagreements. Nurses in Canada experienced a greater frequency of ethical issues (p=0.022); however, there was no statistical difference in reported distress levels (p=0.53). The survey was positively rated for ease of completion, relevance and comprehensiveness.
CONCLUSIONS: Nurses' reported comparable experiences of providing palliative care in UK and Canadian nursing homes. These findings have implications on the practice of care in nursing homes, including how care is organised as well as capacity of staff to care for residents at the end of life. Training staff to take account of patient and family values during decision-making may address many ethical issues, in line with global policy recommendations. The EPiCNH instrument has demonstrated international relevance and applicability.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to clarify the concept of death preparedness for family caregivers in dementia. Conceptualization was required to support the assessment, promotion, and operationalization (ie, measurement) of death preparedness through palliative care interventions such as advance care planning.
METHODS: Rodgers evolutionary method of concept analysis was selected to guide this study because of the dynamic nature of death preparedness influenced by context, setting, and time. A comprehensive literature search was conducted. Authors performed constant comparative analysis to identify and interpret surrogate/related concepts, attributes, antecedents, and consequences of death preparedness.
RESULTS: Most importantly attributes included (1) knowing and recognizing the symptoms of decline in dementia and what dying looks like; (2) understanding emotions and grief responses; (3) accessing and appraising supports needed to manage and care for dying; (4) organizing affairs and completing tasks in advance; (5) accepting that losses are inevitable and imminent; (6) reflecting on caregiving and finding meaning, "a silver-lining"; and (7) closing, reconciling, and renewing relationship bonds and completing the family member's life.
DISCUSSION: This study contributed a full definition of death preparedness in dementia. Findings aligned with/expanded upon Hebert et al Theoretical Framework of Preparedness for End-of-Life. The use of problem- and emotion-based coping strategies by caregivers with support from health-care providers to promote feelings of death preparedness (including self-efficacy and control) and minimize uncertainty was the implication of this study. Development of a holistic preparedness instrument is underway.
OBJECTIVES: This article reports findings on the usability and staff use of 5 condition- specific pamphlets of high prevalence in long-term care (LTC): dementia, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, renal failure, and frailty. The pamphlets were created in response to residents', families', and staff's recommendations for activating early reflections and communication about end-of-life care.
DESIGN: A mixed-method (qualitative and quantitative) survey design was used. Step 1 collected survey data on the usability of the pamphlets. Step 2 collected survey data on pamphlet use.
SETTINGS AND PARTICIPANTS: Two nurses with specialized palliative care training, 2 resident/family representatives, 10 condition-specific specialists, and 33 LTC palliative leads reviewed the pamphlets for usability prior to distribution. A total of 178 LTC home staff in 4 participating LTC homes reported on pamphlet use.
MEASURES: Specialists and resident/family representatives were asked to provide open comments and LTC home palliative leads were asked to complete a survey on the accuracy, readability, and relevance of the pamphlets. After 6 months of distribution, all staff in participating LTC homes were asked to complete a survey on pamphlet use, usefulness, and comfort with distribution.
RESULTS: The pamphlets were reportedly accurate, relevant, and easy to understand. Following 6 months of availability, most staff in LTC had read the pamphlets, found the information useful, and planned to share them. However, half of the staff questioned their role in pamphlet distribution and most had not distributed them. Regulated staff (ie, staff affiliated with a regulated profession) expressed more comfort sharing the pamphlets than care aides and support staff.
CONCLUSIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Condition-specific pamphlets appear to hold promise in providing residents and families with relevant information that may activate early reflections and conversations about end-of-life care. However, structured implementation strategies, training, and discussions are required to improve staff comfort with distribution and explore roles in distribution and follow-up.
The discourse of dying alone is negatively weighted and models of a good death identify not dying alone as a key outcome. Understanding why dying alone is viewed negatively and its effects on care is a priority. In separate focus groups with long-term care residents, family caregivers, and staff, we identified evidence for four different perspectives on the importance of presence at the time of death. However, while each individual had their own unique perspective on dying alone, the predominant view expressed across respondent groups was that having human connection near the end of one’s life was important.
BACKGROUND: Most persons with dementia die in long term care (LTC) homes, where palliative approaches are appropriate. However, palliative approaches have not been widely implemented and there is limited understanding of staff and family experiences of dying and bereavement in this context.
METHOD: This descriptive qualitative study explored family and staff experiences of end of life and end of life care for persons with dementia in LTC homes. Eighteen focus groups were conducted with 77 staff members and 19 relatives of persons with dementia at four LTC homes in four Canadian provinces.
RESULTS: Three themes emerged: knowing the resident, the understanding that they are all human beings, and the long slow decline and death of residents with dementia.
DISCUSSION: Intimate knowledge of the person with dementia, obtained through longstanding relationships, was foundational for person-centred end of life care. Health care aides need to be included in end of life care planning to take advantage of their knowledge of residents with dementia. There were unmet bereavement support needs among staff, particularly health care aides. Persons with dementia were affected by death around them and existing rituals for marking deaths in LTC homes may not fit their needs. Staff were uncomfortable answering relatives' questions about end of life.
CONCLUSIONS: Longstanding intimate relationships enhanced end of life care but left health care aides with unmet bereavement support needs. Staff in LTC homes should be supported to answer questions about the trajectory of decline of dementia and death. Further research about residents' experiences of deaths of other residents is needed.
Objectives: To elicit Quebec physicians’ attitudes towards extending medical aid in dying (MAiD) to incompetent patients and to compare the attitudes of family physicians to those of other medical specialists.
Methods: We conducted a postal survey among physicians caring for patients with dementia. We used hypothetical vignettes to elicit their attitudes towards MAiD and continuous deep sedation (CDS) to relieve suffering at end of life. Two patients were depicted in the vignettes: one with cancer eligible for MAiD and one with dementia. The generalized estimating equation approach was used to investigate factors associated with attitudes, including the stage of the illness (advanced vs terminal dementia) and the presence or absence of a prior written request.
Results: A total of 136 physicians out of 653 returned the questionnaire. Physicians favoured CDS over MAiD for relieving suffering in the cancer vignette (93% vs 79%; p = 0.002). In advanced dementia, 45% of physicians supported giving the patient access to MAiD with a written request and 14% without such request. At the terminal stage of dementia, these proportions increased to 71% and 43%, respectively (p < 0.001), reaching 79% and 52% among family physicians. Support for CDS in terminal dementia was lower than in end-stage cancer (68% vs 93%; p < 0.001) and equal to MAiD with a written request (68% vs 71%; p = 0.623).
Conclusion: Many Quebec physicians support extending MAiD to incompetent patients with dementia to relieve suffering at the terminal stage. This finding will inform current deliberations as to whether MAiD should be extended to these patients.
Euthanasia is a controversial and complex issue, especially when involving incompetent patients. On December 10, 2015, Quebec became the first Canadian province to give access to medical aid in dying (MAiD) (ie, euthanasia performed by a physician) to competent patients who satisfy strictly defined criteria. Less than 2 years later, Quebec is considering extending MAiD to incompetent patients who made an advance request. With the objective of contributing scientific data to current societal debates, we conducted a survey among 471 informal caregivers of persons with dementia, reached through Alzheimer Societies. We used a series of vignettes featuring a person with Alzheimer disease to investigate respondents' attitudes towards MAiD. The response rate was 69%. Two-thirds [68%; 95% confidence interval, 63%-73%] found it acceptable to extend MAiD to an incompetent patient at an advanced stage of Alzheimer disease who had made a written request while competent, and 91% (95% confidence interval, 87%-94%) found it acceptable at the terminal stage. Self-determination was the most widely endorsed argument in favor of access to MAiD for incompetent patients. Findings suggest strong support among informal caregivers for extending MAiD to incompetent patients, provided they are terminally-ill and had made a written request before losing capacity.
The goal of this study was to examine current rates of resident deaths, Emergency Department (ED) use within the last year of life, and hospital deaths for long-term care (LTC) residents. Using a mixed-methods approach, we compared these rates across four LTC homes in Ontario, Canada, and explored potential explanations of variations across homes to stimulate staff reflections and improve performance based on a quality improvement approach. Chart audits revealed that 59% of residents across sites visited EDs during the last month of life and 26% of resident deaths occurred in hospital. Staff expressed surprise at the amount of hospital use during end of life (EOL). Reflections suggested that clinical expertise, comfort with EOL communication, clinical resources (i.e., equipment), and family availability for EOL decision making could all affect nondesirable hospital transfers at EOL. Staff appeared motivated to address these areas of practice following this reflective process.
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's disease and related disorders affect a growing number of people worldwide. Quality of life is generally good in the early stages of these diseases. However, many individuals fear living through the advanced stages. Such fears are triggering requests for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) by patients with dementia. Legislation was recently passed in Canada and the province of Quebec allowing MAiD at the explicit request of a patient who meets a set of eligibility criteria, including competence. Some commentators have argued that MAiD should be accessible to incompetent patients as well, provided appropriate safeguards are in place. Governments of both Quebec and Canada are currently considering whether MAiD should be accessible through written requests made in advance of loss of capacity.
OBJECTIVE: Aimed at informing the societal debate on this sensitive issue, this study will compare stakeholders' attitudes towards expanding MAiD to incompetent patients with dementia, the beliefs underlying stakeholders' attitudes on this issue, and the value they attach to proposed safeguards. This paper describes the study protocol.
METHODS: Data will be collected via a questionnaire mailed to random samples of community-dwelling seniors, relatives of persons with dementia, physicians, and nurses, all residing in Quebec (targeted sample size of 385 per group). Participants will be recruited through the provincial health insurance database, Alzheimer Societies, and professional associations. Attitudes towards MAiD for incompetent patients with dementia will be elicited through clinical vignettes featuring a patient with Alzheimer's disease for whom MAiD is considered towards the end of the disease trajectory. Vignettes specify the source of the request (from the patient through an advance request or from the patient's substitute decision-maker), manifestations of suffering, and how close the patient is to death. Arguments for or against MAiD are used to elicit the beliefs underlying respondents' attitudes.
RESULTS: The survey was launched in September 2016 and is still ongoing. At the time of submission, over 850 respondents have returned the questionnaire, mostly via mail.
CONCLUSIONS: This study will be the first in Canada to directly compare views on MAiD for incompetent patients with dementia across key stakeholder groups. Our findings will contribute valuable data upon which to base further debate about whether MAiD should be accessible to incompetent patients with dementia, and if so, under what conditions.
OBJECTIVES: Caregivers (CG) of persons with dementia have described positive and challenging experiences related to caring for a person with a neurological disease. This study explored perceived benefits and challenges of a unique psychoeducation program provided at end of life (EOL) jointly attended by current and bereaved CGs of persons with dementia, residing in a hospital Specialized Care Unit.
METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were held with sixteen participants and analyzed with content analysis.
RESULTS: Program benefits were perceived by CGs such as: (i) enhanced emotional well-being, (ii) increased feelings of preparedness for EOL, and (iii) personal growth into role models. Within the organization the program was perceived as promoting relationship-centered care and increasing resources. Challenges such as diverse CG preferences, day-time scheduling and limited involvement of unit staff were perceived as barriers.
CONCLUSIONS: This program fills a gap in care for CGs at the critical stage of EOL with continuity into bereavement. Implications for practice include: increasing engagement of unit staff for involvement and tailoring of the program, and translation of the program into alternative settings like long-term care. Policies outlining the support needs and resources for CGs through EOL within and outside the hospital are necessary to ensure access and continuity of care.
BACKGROUND: Improvement in the quality of end-of-life care for advanced dementia is increasingly recognized as a priority in palliative care. AIM: To evaluate the impact of a multidimensional intervention to improve quality of care and quality of dying in advanced dementia in long-term care facilities. DESIGN: Quasi-experimental study with the intervention taking place in two long-term care facilities versus usual care in two others over a 1-year period. The intervention had five components: (1) training program to physicians and nursing staff, (2) clinical monitoring of pain using an observational pain scale, (3) implementation of a regular mouth care routine, (4) early and systematic communication with families about end-of-life care issues with provision of an information booklet, and (5) involvement of a nurse facilitator to implement and monitor the intervention. Quality of care was assessed with the Family Perception of Care Scale. The Symptom Management for End-of-Life Care in Dementia and the Comfort Assessment in Dying scales were used to assess the quality of dying.
Participants: A total of 193 residents with advanced dementia and their close family members were included (97 in the intervention group and 96 in the usual care group).
Results: The Family Perception of Care score was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the usual care group (157.3 vs 149.1; p = 0.04). The Comfort Assessment and Symptom Management scores were also significantly higher in the intervention group.
Conclusions: Our multidimensional intervention in long-term care facilities for patients with terminal dementia resulted in improved quality of care and quality of dying when compared to usual care.
Background: Higher acuity of care at the time of admission to long-term care (LTC) is resulting in a shorter period to time of death, yet most LTC homes in Canada do not have formalized approaches to palliative care. Namaste Care is a palliative care approach specifically tailored to persons with advanced cognitive impairment who are living in LTC. The purpose of this study was to employ the ecological framework to identify barriers and enablers to an implementation of Namaste Care.
Methods: Six group interviews were conducted with families, unlicensed staff, and licensed staff at two Canadian LTC homes that were planning to implement Namaste Care. None of the interviewees had prior experience implementing Namaste Care. The resulting qualitative data were analyzed using a template organizing approach.
Results: We found that the strongest implementation enablers were positive perceptions of need for the program, benefits of the program, and fit within a resident-centred or palliative approach to care. Barriers included a generally low resource base for LTC, the need to adjust highly developed routines to accommodate the program, and reliance on a casual work force.
Conclusions: We conclude that within the Canadian LTC system, positive perceptions of Namaste Care are tempered by concerns about organizational capacity to support new programming.