The number of residents in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in need of palliative care is growing in the Western world. Therefore, it is foreseen that significantly higher percentages of budgets will be spent on palliative care. However, cost-effectiveness analyses of palliative care interventions in these settings are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this paper was to assess the cost-effectiveness of the ‘PACE Steps to Success’ intervention. PACE (Palliative Care for Older People) is a 1-year palliative care programme aiming at integrating general palliative care into day-to-day routines in LTCFs, throughout seven EU countries.
COVID-19 mortality disproportionally affects nursing homes, creating enormous pressures to deliver high-quality end-of-life care. Comprehensive palliative care should be an explicit part of both national and global COVID-19 response plans. Therefore, we aimed to identify, review, and compare national and international COVID-19 guidance for nursing homes concerning palliative care, issued by government bodies and professional associations. We performed a directed documentary and content analysis of newly developed or adapted COVID-19 guidance documents from across the world. Documents were collected via expert consultation and independently screened against prespecified eligibility criteria. We applied thematic analysis and narrative synthesis techniques. We identified 21 eligible documents covering both nursing homes and palliative care, from the World Health Organization (n = 3), and eight individual countries: U.S. (n = 7), The Netherlands (n = 2), Ireland (n = 1), U.K. (n = 3), Switzerland (n = 3), New Zealand (n = 1), and Belgium (n = 1). International documents focused primarily on infection prevention and control, including only a few sentences on palliative care-related topics. Palliative care themes most frequently mentioned across documents were end-of-life visits, advance care planning documentation, and clinical decision making toward the end of life (focusing on hospital transfers). There is a dearth of comprehensive international COVID-19 guidance on palliative care for nursing homes. Most have a limited focus both regarding breadth of topics and recommendations made. Key aspects of palliative care, that is, symptom management, staff education and support, referral to specialist services or hospice, and family support, need greater attention in future guidelines.
The spread of pandemic COVID-19 has created unprecedented need for information. The pandemic is the cause of significant mortality and with this the need for rapidly disseminated information for palliative care professionals regarding the prevalence of symptoms, their intensity, their resistance or susceptibility to symptom control and the mode of death for patients.
Methods: we undertook a systematic review of published evidence for symptoms in patients with COVID-19 (with a specific emphasis on symptoms at end of life) and on modes of death. Inclusion: prospective or retrospective studies detailing symptom presence and/or cause or mode of death from COVID-19.
Results: 12 papers met the inclusion criteria and gave details of symptom burden: four of these specifically in the dying and two detailed the cause or mode of death. Cough, breathlessness, fatigue and myalgia are significant symptoms in people hospitalised with COVID-19. Dyspnoea is the most significant symptom in the dying. The mode of death was described in two papers and is predominantly through respiratory or heart failure.
Conclusions: There remains a dearth of information regarding symptom burden and mode of death to inform decisions regarding end-of-life care in patients dying with COVID-19. Rapid data gathering on the mode of death and the profile of symptoms in the dying and their prevalence and severity in areas where COVID-19 is prevalent will provide important intelligence for clinicians. This should be done urgently, within ethical norms and the practicalities of a public health, clinical and logistical emergency.
BACKGROUND: End of life care is often inadequate for people with dementia. Advanced care planning (ACP) has the potential to improve outcomes for people with dementia. The aim of this review is to establish the strength of the evidence and provide decision makers with a clear understanding of what is known about ACP for people living with dementia.
DESIGN: Evidence synthesis including systematic reviews and primary studies. PROSPERO registration: CRD42018107718.
DATA SOURCES: PubMed, CINAHL Plus, SCOPUS, Social Care Online and Cochrane Library were searched (July 2018). No year limit applied. To be included, reviews had to evaluate effectiveness of ACP for people with dementia or report on views and experiences of ACP from the perspective of people with dementia, carers, or health and care professionals. Additional searches (September 2018) were conducted to identify recent primary studies not included in the reviews.
REVIEW METHODS: Data extraction was undertaken by one reviewer and checked by a second. Methodological quality was assessed using AMSTAR-2 and Joanna Briggs Institute instruments by two authors independently. Outcomes were categorized and tabulated to assess effectiveness. Qualitative data was analysed using thematic synthesis.
RESULTS: Nineteen reviews (163 unique studies) and 11 primary articles with a range of advance care planning definitions and of variable quality were included. Advance care planning was associated with decreased hospitalizations, increased concordance between care received and prior wishes and increased completion of advance care planning documents but quality of primary research was variable. Views of ACP for people with dementia can be clustered around six themes; 1) timing and tailoring, 2) willingness to engage, 3) roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals, 4) relationships, 5) training and 6) resources needed. Diminishing decision-making capacity over time is a key overarching feature.
CONCLUSIONS: Advance care planning is acceptable for people with dementia and their carers and is associated with improved outcomes. Guidelines on which outcomes and which definition to use are necessary, as is research to test different approaches to ACP. Education on topics related to diminishing decision-making capacity is key to optimize advance care planning for people with dementia and their carers.
BACKGROUND: Considering social cognitive theory and current literature about successful advance care planning in nursing homes, sufficient knowledge and self-efficacy are important preconditions for staff to be able to carry out advance care planning in practice.
AIM: Exploring to what extent nurses' knowledge about and self-efficacy is associated with their engagement in advance care planning in nursing homes.
DESIGN: Survey study as part of a baseline measurement of a randomised controlled cluster trial (NCT03521206).
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Nurses in a purposive sample of 14 nursing homes in Belgium.
METHODS: A survey was distributed among nurses, evaluating knowledge (11 true/false items), self-efficacy (12 roles and tasks on 10-point Likert-type scale) and six advance care planning practices (yes/no), ranging from performing advance care planning conversations to completing advance directives.
RESULTS: A total of 196 nurses participated (66% response rate). While knowledge was not significantly associated with advance care planning practices, self-efficacy was. One unit's increase in self-efficacy was statistically associated with an estimated 32% increase in the number of practices having carried out.
CONCLUSIONS: Nurses' engagement in advance care planning practices is mainly associated with their self-efficacy rather than their knowledge. Further research is necessary to improve the evidence regarding the causal relationship between constructs. However, these results suggest that educational programmes that focus solely on knowledge might not lead to increasing uptake of advance care planning in nurses.
BACKGROUND: Research has highlighted the need for improving the implementation of advance care planning (ACP) in nursing homes. We developed a theory-based multicomponent ACP intervention (the ACP+ programme) aimed at supporting nursing home staff with the implementation of ACP into routine nursing home care. We describe here the protocol of a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) that aims to evaluate the effects of ACP+ on nursing home staff and volunteer level outcomes and its underlying processes of change.
METHODS: We will conduct a cluster RCT in Flanders, Belgium. Fourteen eligible nursing homes will be pair-matched and one from each pair will be randomised to either continue care and education as usual or to receive the ACP+ programme (a multicomponent programme which is delivered stepwise over an eight-month period with the help of an external trainer). Primary outcomes are: nursing home care staff's knowledge of, and self-efficacy regarding ACP. Secondary outcomes are: 1) nursing home care staff's attitudes towards ACP and ACP practices; 2) support staff's and volunteer's ACP practices and 3) support staff's and volunteers' self-efficacy. Measurements will be performed at baseline and eight months post-measurement, using structured self-reported questionnaires. A process evaluation will accompany the outcome evaluation in the intervention group, with measurements throughout and post-intervention to assess implementation, mechanisms of impact and context and will be carried out using a mixed-methods design.
DISCUSSION: There is little high-quality evidence regarding the effectiveness and underlying processes of change of ACP in nursing homes. This combined outcome and process evaluation of the ACP+ programme aims to contribute to building the necessary evidence to improve ACP and its uptake for nursing home residents and their family.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov (no. NCT03521206). Registration date: May 10, 2018. Inclusion of nursing homes started March, 2018. Hence, the trial was retrospectively registered but before end of data collection and analyses.
Importance: High-quality evidence on how to improve palliative care in nursing homes is lacking.
Objective: To investigate the effect of the Palliative Care for Older People (PACE) Steps to Success Program on resident and staff outcomes.
Design, Setting, and Participants: A cluster-randomized clinical trial (2015-2017) in 78 nursing homes in 7 countries comparing PACE Steps to Success Program (intervention) with usual care (control). Randomization was stratified by country and median number of beds in each country in a 1:1 ratio.
Interventions: The PACE Steps to Success Program is a multicomponent intervention to integrate basic nonspecialist palliative care in nursing homes. Using a train-the-trainer approach, an external trainer supports staff in nursing homes to introduce a palliative care approach over the course of 1 year following a 6-steps program. The steps are (1) advance care planning with residents and family, (2) assessment, care planning, and review of needs and problems, (3) coordination of care via monthly multidisciplinary review meetings, (4) delivery of high-quality care focusing on pain and depression, (5) care in the last days of life, and (6) care after death.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary resident outcome was comfort in the last week of life measured after death by staff using the End-of-Life in Dementia Scale Comfort Assessment While Dying (EOLD-CAD; range, 14-42). The primary staff outcome was knowledge of palliative care reported by staff using the Palliative Care Survey (PCS; range, 0-1).
Results: Concerning deceased residents, we collected 551 of 610 questionnaires from staff at baseline and 984 of 1178 postintervention in 37 intervention and 36 control homes. Mean (SD) age at time of death ranged between 85.22 (9.13) and 85.91 (8.57) years, and between 60.6% (160/264) and 70.6% (190/269) of residents were women across the different groups. Residents’ comfort in the last week of life did not differ between intervention and control groups (baseline-adjusted mean difference, -0.55; 95% CI, -1.71 to 0.61; P = .35). Concerning staff, we collected 2680 of 3638 questionnaires at baseline and 2437 of 3510 postintervention in 37 intervention and 38 control homes. Mean (SD) age of staff ranged between 42.3 (12.1) and 44.1 (11.7) years, and between 87.2% (1092/1253) and 89% (1224/1375) of staff were women across the different groups. Staff in the intervention group had statistically significantly better knowledge of palliative care than staff in the control group, but the clinical difference was minimal (baseline-adjusted mean difference, 0.04; 95% CI, 0.02-0.05; P < .001). Data analyses began on April 20, 2018.
Conclusions and Relevance: Residents' comfort in the last week of life did not improve after introducing the PACE Steps to Success Program. Improvements in staff knowledge of palliative care were clinically not important.
Trial Registration: ISRCTN Identifier: ISRCTN14741671.
BACKGROUND: While various initiatives have been taken to improve advance care planning in nursing homes, it is difficult to find enough details about interventions to allow comparison, replication and translation into practice.
OBJECTIVES: We report on the development and description of the ACP+ program, a multi-component theory-based program that aims to implement advance care planning into routine nursing home care. We aimed to 1) specify how intervention components can be delivered; 2) evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the program; 3) describe the final program in a standardized manner.
DESIGN: To develop and model the intervention, we applied multiple study methods including a literature review, expert discussions and individual and group interviews with nursing home staff and management. We recruited participants through convenience sampling.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Management and staff (n = 17) from five nursing homes in Flanders (Belgium), a multidisciplinary expert group and a palliative care nurse-trainer.
METHODS: The work was carried out by means of 1) operationalization of key intervention components-identified as part of a previously developed theory on how advance care planning is expected to lead to its desired outcomes in nursing homes-into specific activities and materials, through expert discussions and review of existing advance care planning programs; 2) evaluation of feasibility and acceptability of the program through interviews with nursing home management and staff and expert revisions; and 3) standardized description of the final program according to the TIDieR checklist. During step 2, we used thematic analysis.
RESULTS: The original program with nine key components was expanded to include ten intervention components, 22 activities and 17 materials to support delivery into routine nursing home care. The final ACP+ program includes ongoing training and coaching, management engagement, different roles and responsibilities in organizing advance care planning, conversations, documentation and information transfer, integration of advance care planning into multidisciplinary meetings, auditing, and tailoring to the specific setting. These components are to be implemented stepwise throughout an intervention period. The program involves the entire nursing home workforce. The support of an external trainer decreases as nursing home staff become more autonomous in organizing advance care planning.
CONCLUSIONS: The multicomponent ACP+ program involves residents, family, and the different groups of people working in the nursing home. It is deemed feasible and acceptable by nursing home staff and management. The findings presented in this paper, alongside results of the subsequent randomized controlled cluster trial, can facilitate comparison, replicability and translation of the intervention into practice.
Background: Many older people with serious chronic illnesses experience complex health problems for which palliative care is indicated. We aimed to examine the quality of primary palliative care for people aged 65–84 years and those 85 years and older who died non-suddenly in three European countries.
Methods: This is a nationwide representative mortality follow-back study. General practitioners (GPs) belonging to epidemiological surveillance networks in Belgium (BE), Italy (IT) and Spain (ES) (2013–2015) registered weekly all deaths in their practices. We included deaths of people aged 65 and excluded sudden deaths judged by GPs. We applied a validated set of quality indicators.
Results: GPs registered 3496 deaths, of which 2329 were non-sudden (1126 aged 65–84, 1203 aged 85+). GPs in BE (reference category) reported higher scores than IT across almost all indicators. Differences with ES were not consistent. The score in BE particularly differed from IT on GP–patient communication (aged 65–84: 61% in BE vs 20% in IT (OR=0.12, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.20) aged 85+: 47% in BE vs 9% in IT (OR=0.09, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.16)). Between BE and ES, we identified a large difference in involvement of palliative care services (aged 65–84: 62% in BE vs 89% in ES (OR=4.81, 95% CI 2.41 to 9.61) aged 85+: 61% in BE vs 77% in ES (OR=3.1, 95% CI 1.71 to 5.53)).
Conclusions: Considerable country differences were identified in the quality of primary palliative care for older people. The data suggest room for improvement across all countries, particularly regarding pain measurement, GP–patient communication and multidisciplinary meetings.
Context: To provide high-quality palliative care to nursing home residents, staff need to understand the basic principles of palliative care.
Objectives: to evaluate the extent of agreement with the basic principles of palliative care of nurses and care assistants working in nursing homes in five European countries and to identify correlates.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study in 214 homes in Belgium, England, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland. Agreement with basic principles of palliative care was measured with the Rotterdam MOVE2PC. We calculated percentages and odds ratios of agreement and an overall score between 0 (no agreement) and 5 (total agreement).
Results: Most staff in all countries agreed that palliative care involves more than pain treatment (58% Poland to 82% Belgium) and includes spiritual care (62% Italy to 76% Belgium) and care for family or relatives (56% Italy to 92% Belgium). Between 51% (the Netherlands) and 64% (Belgium) correctly disagreed that palliative care should start in the last week of life and 24% (Belgium) to 53% (Poland) agreed that palliative care and intensive life-prolonging treatment can be combined. The overall agreement score ranged between 1.82 (Italy) and 3.36 (England). Older staff (0.26; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.09–0.43, P = 0.003), nurses (0.59; 95% CI: 0.43–0.75, P < 0.001), and staff who had undertaken palliative care training scored higher (0.21; 95% CI: 0.08–0.34, P = 0.002).
Conclusions: The level of agreement of nursing home staff with basic principles of palliative care was only moderate and differed between countries. Efforts to improve the understanding of basic palliative care are needed.
Background: Opioids, antipsychotics and hypnotics are recommended for comfort care in dying. We studied their prescription during the last 3 days in residents deceased in the long-term care facility (LTCF).
Methods: In a retrospective, cross-sectional survey in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, LTCFs, selected by proportional stratified random sampling, reported all deaths over the previous 3 months. The nurse most involved in the residents' care reviewed the chart for opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription, cause of death and comorbidities. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to adjust for resident characteristics.
Results: Response rate was 81.6%. We included 1079 deceased residents in 322 LCTFs. Opioid prescription ranged from 18.5% (95% CI: 13.0-25.8) of residents in Poland to 77.9% (95% CI: 69.5-84.5) in the Netherlands, antipsychotic prescription from 4.8% (95% CI: 2.4-9.1) in Finland to 22.4% (95% CI: 14.7-32.4) in Italy, hypnotic prescription from 7.8% (95% CI: 4.6-12.8) in Finland to 47.9% (95% CI: 38.5-57.3) in the Netherlands. Differences in opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription between countries remained significant (P < 0.001) when controlling for age, gender, length of stay, cognitive status, cause of death in multilevel, multivariable analyses. Dying from cancer showed higher odds for receiving opioids (OR 3.51; P < 0.001) and hypnotics (OR 2.10; P = 0.010).
Conclusions: Opioid, antipsychotic and hypnotic prescription in the dying phase differed significantly between six European countries. Further research should determine the appropriateness of their prescription and refine guidelines especially for LTCF residents dying of non-cancer diseases.
BACKGROUND: Nursing homes are among the most common places of death in many countries.
AIM: To determine the quality of dying and end-of-life care of nursing home residents in six European countries.
DESIGN: Epidemiological survey in a proportionally stratified random sample of nursing homes. We identified all deaths of residents of the preceding 3-month period.
MAIN OUTCOMES: quality of dying in the last week of life (measured using End-of-Life in Dementia Scales - Comfort Assessment while Dying (EOLD-CAD)); quality of end-of-life care in the last month of life (measured using Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care (QoD-LTC) scale). Higher scores indicate better quality.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Three hundred and twenty-two nursing homes in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and England. Participants were staff (nurses or care assistants) most involved in each resident's care.
RESULTS: Staff returned questionnaires regarding 1384 (81.6%) of 1696 deceased residents. The End-of-Life in Dementia Scales – Comfort Assessment while Dying mean score (95% confidence interval) (theoretical 14–42) ranged from 29.9 (27.6; 32.2) in Italy to 33.9 (31.5; 36.3) in England. The Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care mean score (95% confidence interval) (theoretical 11–55) ranged from 35.0 (31.8; 38.3) in Italy to 44.1 (40.7; 47.4) in England. A higher End-of-Life in Dementia Scales – Comfort Assessment while Dying score was associated with country (p = 0.027), older age (p = 0.012), length of stay 1 year (p = 0.034), higher functional status (p < 0.001). A higher Quality of Dying in Long-Term Care score was associated with country (p < 0.001), older age (p < 0.001), length of stay 1 year (p < 0.001), higher functional status (p = 0.002), absence of dementia (p = 0.001), death in nursing home (p = 0.033).
CONCLUSION: The quality of dying and quality of end-of-life care in nursing homes in the countries studied are not optimal. This includes countries with high levels of palliative care development in nursing homes such as Belgium, the Netherlands and England.
BACKGROUND: The provision of high-quality palliative care in nursing homes (NHs) is a major challenge and places demands on the knowledge and skills of the staff.
AIM: This study assesses the palliative care knowledge of staff in NHs in Europe.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional study using structured survey Setting/participants: Nurses and care assistants working in 322 representative samples of NHs in Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Finland, Poland and Italy. Palliative care knowledge is measured with the Palliative Care Survey. Scores on the scales range between 0 and 1; higher scores indicate more knowledge.
RESULTS: A total of 3392 NH-staff were given a questionnaire, and 2275 responded (67%). Knowledge of basic palliative care issues ranged between 0.20 in Poland (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19; 0.24) and 0.61 in Belgium (95% CI 0.59; 0.63), knowledge of physical aspects that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.81 in Poland (95% CI 0.79; 0.84) and 0.91 in the Netherlands (95% CI 0.89; 0.93), and knowledge of psychological reasons that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.56 in England (95% CI 0.50; 0.62) and 0.87 in Finland (95% CI 0.83; 0.90). Factors associated with knowledge were country, professional role and having undertaken formal training in palliative care.
CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge of nurses and care assistants concerning basic palliative care issues appears to be suboptimal in all participating countries, although there is substantial heterogeneity. Education of nursing staff needs to be improved across, but each country may require its own strategy to address the unique and specific knowledge gaps.
BACKGROUND: Several studies have highlighted the need for improvement in palliative care delivered to older people long-term care facilities. However, the available evidence on how to improve palliative care in these settings is weak, especially in Europe. We describe the protocol of the PACE trial aimed to 1) evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the 'PACE Steps to Success' palliative care intervention for older people in long-term care facilities, and 2) assess the implementation process and identify facilitators and barriers for implementation in different countries.
METHODS: We will conduct a multi-facility cluster randomised controlled trial in Belgium, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and England. In total, 72 facilities will be randomized to receive the 'Pace Steps to Success intervention' or to 'care as usual'. Primary outcome at resident level: quality of dying (CAD-EOLD); and at staff level: staff knowledge of palliative care (Palliative Care Survey).
SECONDARY OUTCOMES: resident's quality of end-of-life care, staff self-efficacy, self-perceived educational needs, and opinions on palliative care. Economic outcomes: direct costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Measurements are performed at baseline and after the intervention. For the resident-level outcomes, facilities report all deaths of residents in and outside the facilities over a previous four-month period and structured questionnaires are sent to (1) the administrator, (2) staff member most involved in care (3) treating general practitioner, and (4) a relative. For the staff-level outcomes, all staff who are working in the facilities are asked to complete a structured questionnaire. A process evaluation will run alongside the effectiveness evaluation in the intervention group using the RE-AIM framework.
DISCUSSION: The lack of high quality trials in palliative care has been recognized throughout the field of palliative care research. This cross-national cluster RCT designed to evaluate the impact of the palliative care intervention for long-term care facilities 'PACE Steps to Success' in seven countries, will provide important evidence concerning the effectiveness as well as the preconditions for optimal implementation of palliative care in nursing homes, and this within different health care systems.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study is registered at www.isrctn.com - ISRCTN14741671 (FP7-HEALTH-2013-INNOVATION-1 603111) Registration date: July 30, 2015.