Severe, persistent mental illnes (SPMI) presents a unique but not uncommon challenge to palliative care providers across manypractice settings, andpotentially at every stage of advanced illness. The cases below describe 2 patients with severe mental illness, both of whom had been admitted to inpatient orensic psychiatry units for a number of years, who pre-sented to an outpatient palliative care clinic. This article seeks to explore the barriers faced by these patients in accessing palliative care, and the challenges faced by providers in offering adequate supports to ensure equitable and appropriate care for both symptom management and advance care planning.
Palliative care is encountering an increasing number of patients with opioid use disorder who are managed on medication-assisted treatment. Buprenorphine is US Food and Drug Administration approved for office-based management of opioid use disorder. As a partial opioid agonist, it can be used to manage pain in the palliative care setting but can also pose inherent challenges to the management of pain that necessitates full opioid agonists. This article uses a case example to highlight the management of substance use disorder and pain in a patient on buprenorphine along the full illness trajectory. In addition, an overview of buprenorphine pharmacology, unique aspects of the prescribing waiver, and pain management will be discussed.
The Canadian province of Quebec enacted in 2014 a legislation that permitted medical assistance in dying (MAID) under specific conditions and the rest of Canada followed suit in June 2016. In this article, which is the second in a set of case series of requests for MAID in Canadian psychiatry, we present the cases of two patients who made a request for MAID to their treating psychiatrist in an outpatient clinic. While one is advanced in age and suffering from intense physical and psychic pain with little if any psychiatric comorbidity, the other is a young and medically healthy woman who nonetheless suffers from extensive psychiatric comorbidity. This article discusses both cases in light of recent scientific literature and case law that is slowly emerging in Canada, focusing on the concepts of the end of life and its legal definition as well as psychic suffering and its management in those wishing to receive physician-assisted dying. In our conclusion, we stress the need to clarify the definition of treatment resistance, the necessity to determine each physician's role when many are involved, as well as the importance of treating psychic pain holistically, which can sometimes require going beyond standard psychiatric care.
With a growing population of transgender-identified elders in the United States, their unique spiritual end-of-life needs are coming to light. This article presents a case study of a hospice volunteer who used skillful means as an artist to help a transgender-identified woman express her spirituality in the last 6 months of her life. After data analysis, 4 themes emerged related to the expression of spirituality by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) elders at end of life. The themes that emerged included (1) the human element in advocacy for spiritual care, (2) the importance of safe spaces for reflection and meditation, (3) the importance of skillful means to work with LGBTQ people, and (4) acknowledgement of gender identity as a spiritual need. This case study serves as a springboard to advance research into the end-of-life needs of LGBTQ elders and the ways in which members of the hospice team can support spiritual care and alleviate suffering for this population.
Background: There are significant policy imperatives to involve consumers at the outset of and throughout research. How best to achieve this in an authentic and meaningful way is elusive, particularly within the palliative care population.
Aim: To determine how best to engage people with palliative care needs and their families in co-designing a qualitative study to better understand how to improve care of the dying in the acute care setting.
Methods: A case study design informed this work, informed by pre-determined research questions that focused on consumers advising on participant experience within the research, rather than research methodology per se.
Findings: Eleven consumers contributed across five panel meetings. Analysis of documented feedback led to four key areas of protocol change: Getting the language in the recruitment materials and information and consent forms right; Developing a feasible and acceptable recruitment strategy; Opportunities to more clearly articulate the explicit value of this research for patients and families; Support strategies for participants.
Discussion: Authentic consumer engagement requires time and effort; however, the outcomes are well worth the invested time and energy. Key foci outlined within this case study to enhance authenticity included: collaboration; preferencing the consumer voice; adequate preparation to support consumer engagement; and openness to all feedback provided.
Conclusion: Co-designing research with consumers enabled the outcome to be feasible for implementation, without any modifications required. Ensuring relevance and consumer-centredness for the expanding palliative care evidence base is essential and can only be achieved through meaningful partnerships with consumer representatives.
Patients with primary brain tumors may present with neuropsychiatric symptoms such as behavioral and personality changes at any point during the disease course. Symptoms may be due to tumor treatment, the disease itself, or due to therapy for symptoms such as seizures. Levetiracetam is an attractive choice of antiepileptic medication because of relatively fewer drug interactions and may be administered through the subcutaneous route. Aggressive behavior in advanced brain tumors can have a profound negative impact on patients and their families and carers, particularly when deteriorating toward death. We report a case of neuropsychiatric symptoms in progressive glioblastoma multiforme while on stable levetiracetam doses, which improved with reduction and cessation of the drug. We review the existing literature on seizures in primary brain tumors, their antiepileptic drug management, and the risk of consequent neuropsychiatric adverse events.
Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (LC) is rare in solid tumours, particularly in gastrointestinal cancers. While other treatment strategies remain undefined, inclusion of palliative care is essential due to its very poor prognosis and variable manifestations. We report a case of oesophagogastric junction adenocarcinoma, previously submitted to surgery and chemotherapy, diagnosed with LC and followed in a palliative care unit. Treatment was comanaged with the oncology team and a palliative approach was decided. In this report, we review the literature and evaluate treatment options, with focus on the importance of palliative care and its potential benefits in patients diagnosed with this rare entity.
PURPOSE: Among breast cancer subgroups, Luminal A is the subgroup with the best prognosis. We report the case of a young woman presenting with a localized luminal A breast cancer with a suspicious liver lesion on initial positron emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) scan staging.
CASE DESCRIPTION: A 31-year-old woman presented with localized breast cancer accessible to curative treatment. However, PET/CT staging revealed an increase of focal activity in the liver, suspicious of a secondary malignant localization, changing the care towards palliative intent. Discrepancy between breast cancer luminal A subtype and the liver lesion led to further investigations (contrast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and biopsy), excluding a malignant process, and were in favor of toxic hepatitis, probably secondary to herbal tea consumption.
CONCLUSIONS: Questioning PET/CT findings in light of the cancer subtype enabled us to rectify the diagnosis and allow this patient to be treated with curative intent.
End-of-life decision making frequently involves a complex balancing of clinical, cultural, social, ethical, religious and economic considerations. Achieving a happy balance of these sometimes-competing interests, however, can be particularly fraught in a family-centric society like Singapore where the family unit often retains significant involvement in care determinations necessitating careful consideration of the family's position during the decision-making process. While various decision-making tools such as relational autonomy, best interests principle and welfare-based models have been proposed to help navigate such difficult decision-making processes, their application in practical terms, however, is dubious at best. This case report is presented to highlight these issues and explore the utility of these frameworks within the Singapore end-of-life care context when the interests of the family may be dissonant from those of the patient.
Background: This case report describes a patient with known idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, being managed with transdermal rotigotine, whose refractory nausea and vomiting was successfully controlled with subcutaneous levomepromazine. No drug-induced extrapyramidal side effects emerged.
Case presentation: A patient was found to have a locally advanced serous carcinoma, causing secondary bowel obstruction. Furthermore, due to compromised oral access, the patient’s oral antiparkinsonian medications for motor control were converted to transdermal rotigotine. Unfortunately, the patient’s nausea and vomiting was refractory to a number of recommended antiemetic options.
Case management: Low dose levomepromazine was administered on a, ‘when required’ basis, via subcutaneous injection.
Case outcome: After the first dose of levomepromazine, the patient’s nausea and vomiting completely subsided and no extrapyramidal side effects were observed. This was confirmed by daily assessments, revealing no worsening of the motor symptoms associated with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.
Conclusions: The pharmacology of rotigotine and levomepromazine appear complementary and may allow for the simultaneous use of both drugs, with favourable outcomes. This case report highlights that rotigotine may afford protection against antipsychotic induced extrapyramidal side effects, while preserving antiemetic effects. Such combinations may have a role in the end-of-life management of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.
With various serious illness, patients experience high levels of functional loss, deconditioning, and dependency for activities of daily living (ADLs). This can lead to social isolation, depression, caregiver breakdown, and institutionalization. This fast fact wil review the benefits and challenges of palliative rehabilitation.
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Advanced heart failure therapies such as ventricular assist devices and home inotrope use are becoming more common. Technology advances as well as increased indications for use of such therapies is leading to a higher percentage of patients with end-stage heart failure receiving these therapies at end of life. We present a case of a young man with dilated cardiomyopathy who undergoes advanced cardiac care in the setting of progressively declining cardiac function. Our case outlines the importance of acute care, palliative care, and hospice services being coordinated prior to and during acute-care services to provide goal-concordant and expeditious care. With advancing medical therapies for heart disease, increased coordination and collaboration of services are needed, particularly between hospice and acute-care services.
Hypercalcemia of malignancy affects 2%-2.8% of cancer patients and is associated with an increased risk of mortality and other symptom-related complications. Standard treatment consists of fluid resuscitation, intravenous bisphosphonates, and calcitonin. Little is known, however, about the benefits of treatment of malignant hypercalcemia in patients with late-stage terminal cancer. We present a case of a hospice patient with squamous cell lung cancer brought to our hospital with newly altered mental status who was found to have hypercalcemia of malignancy. Our discussion centers on the diagnostic dilemma of deciding which patients seeking comfort-focused care may benefit from fluid resuscitation for symptoms of hypercalcemia of malignancy while maintaining the unambiguous goal of comfort care.
RATIONALE: Syncope caused by head and neck cancer (HNC) is rare. However, syncope caused by tongue cancer (TC) is even rarer. In TC, syncope is caused by tumor-mediated compression of the carotid sinus and stimulation of the glossopharyngeal nerve.
PATIENT CONCERNS: In this study, we report the case of a 48-year-old male patient who was diagnosed with advanced TC and bilateral cervical lymph node metastasis. On the third day of admission, the patient experienced recurrent syncope with hypotension and bradycardia.
DIAGNOSES: The patient was diagnosed with a well-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue along with massive cervical lymph node metastasis and carotid sinus syndrome.
INTERVENTIONS: Initially, symptomatic treatment of syncope boosted the blood pressure and increased the heart rate. Thereafter, a temporary pacemaker was implanted. Finally, chemotherapy was used to control the tumor and relieve syncope.
OUTCOMES: After chemotherapy, the tongue ulcers and cervical lymph node reduced in size; syncope did not recur.
LESSONS: This case shows that chemotherapy may be a valid treatment option in patients with cancer-related syncope; however, the choice of chemotherapeutic drugs is critical. Intensive care provides life support to patients and creates opportunities for further treatment.
Checkpoint immunotherapy is a rapidly evolving treatment paradigm for solid organ cancers. These medications are often antibodies that target key regulators of the immune system to unleash an immune system attack on cancer cells. Examples include cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) inhibitors (e.g., ipilimumab) or programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) inhibitors (e.g., pembrolizumab and nivolumab). See Fast Fact #277 for more information. Although heightened immune response against the tumor cells is intended, healthy tissues can also be attacked leading to unintended inflammation of almost any organ system. This has led to a unique set of immune-related adverse events (IRAEs). Given the expanding use of checkpoint immunotherapy, clinical awareness of IRAEs is important among generalist and palliative care clinicians.
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Background: Abrupt withdrawal of pharmacological therapies for myasthenia gravis can exacerbate muscle weakness and even trigger myasthenic crisis. Such medications should ideally be continued, but how this can be achieved in patients approaching the end of life, particularly when enteral administration is compromised, has not been defined.
Case History: An 83-year-old man with a history of generalized myasthenia gravis and palliative metastatic anal adenocarcinoma was admitted to his local hospital with general decline, where he was considered by more than one physician to be actively dying from his cancer. In the days preceding admission, the patient had not taken his medications consistently, including the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, pyridostigmine, for the management of his myasthenia gravis.
Case Management and Outcome: Reintroduction of the patient's usual myasthenia therapy improved his clinical condition to the point where he was no longer thought to be dying. When enteral administration of pyridostigmine was no longer possible, the patient was successfully converted to neostigmine, which was administered as a continuous subcutaneous infusion.
Conclusion:Undertreated myasthenia gravis can lead to a rapid deterioration in a patient's clinical condition, and such patients may be mistakenly diagnosed as dying. Undertreated myasthenia gravis should therefore be considered as a potentially reversible cause of acute deterioration, especially in patients with complex comorbidities. The use of neostigmine as a continuous subcutaneous infusion may have a role in the management of such patients, particularly when enteral administration of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors is no longer possible.
OBJECTIVE: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common in patients diagnosed with advanced cancer (AC), with a prevalence of 16.5%. It is associated with great disability and worsened quality of life, increased number and intensity of physical symptoms, and lower survival. It is the main factor for the presence of suicidal ideation. Antidepressants show modest efficacy, and response requires several weeks. Ketamine has demonstrated a fast and robust antidepressant effect in subanesthetic doses. This effect may prove useful in patients with AC, MDD, and suicidal risk.
METHOD: We report a case of a patient with advanced cervical cancer who presented with uncontrollable pain, MDD, and a suicide attempt.
RESULT: A 39-year-old woman diagnosed with cervical cancer stage IVB presented to the Emergency Department after a suicide attempt by hanging. Upon evaluation by the palliative care psychiatrist, she reported intense pain, unresponsive to analgesics, and had a history of persistent suicidal ideation. Antidepressant treatment was started (sertraline 50mg/d) after a single dose of ketamine hydrochloride IV (0.5 mg/kg) was administered. Treatment response was measured using the Brief Edinburgh Depression Scale before and after the intervention. The depressive symptoms decreased by 17% on day 1, 39% on day 3, and 72% on day 17.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: This case report shows ketamine's efficacy as an augmentation agent alongside conventional antidepressant treatment in patients with AC. Moreover, it shows rapid response in suicidal ideation that has not been achieved with treatment as usual. More clinical trials are needed to support the potential benefit and safety of ketamine in patients with AC, MDD, and persisting suicidal ideation.
As hospice and palliative care populations shift from the majority having a primary cancer diagnosis to most with a noncancer diagnosis, clinicians are challenged with caring for chronically ill patients with multiple comorbidities. In addition to traditional pain and symptom management, patients’ comfort goals are frequently addressed by managing the underlying disease and comorbid conditions. As a result, many patients have extensive medication profiles. This raises the potential for drug-drug interactions at cytochrome P450 pathways that can interfere with anticipated drug response. Likewise, polypharmacy can be problematic when using palliative care order sets and hospice comfort kits to manage emergent symptoms or as the patient approaches death. This is further complicated when medications are administered before a pharmacist’s review for drug interactions. This article provides an overview of cytochrome P450 and uses an unfolding case study approach to explore interactions that may occur within a patient’s medication profile or in combination with medications commonly used by palliative care and hospice.
Introduction: the concept of total suffering is well known to palliative care, and it indicates that there are several complex and correlated factors, which contribute to a dynamic and unique experience of one's illness trajectory. Research on terminally ill patients' will to live (WtL) has revealed important insights on its fluctuations over time and its correlated factors. We report an N-of-1 case study with the aim of examining the concept of total suffering objectively, and the WtL trajectory over time, its fluctuations, as well as its possible correlation with other distressing symptoms in a terminally ill cancer patient.
Case Description: souffrA 72-year-old cancer patient who verbalized total suffering and a low WtL. We used the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), added an additional WtL question, and asked the patient to rate her suffering using the ESAS twice daily (morning and afternoon) for a period of 28 days. Spearman's correlation coefficients between all physical and psychosocial ESAS items were statistical significant in 34 of the 45 performed correlations (30 highly significantly correlations and 4 in a lesser degree). WtL trajectory was fluctuant through the course of the illness, and significant correlations between WtL and all ESAS items were found, except for shortness of breath and drowsiness (after Bonferroni correction). High positive correlations were found between WtL and ESAS total score and ESAS physical and psychological subscores.
Discussion: Developing evidence-based understanding of total suffering and WtL in the terminally ill will lead to better approaches to patients and their loved ones.
Refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease (rGERD) can be characterized as symptomatic reflux or esophagitis despite an adequate trial of twice daily proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy. Patients with rGERD might describe their symptoms as heartburn, poorly localized chest pain, or acid reflux. Nonverbal patients (e.g., patients obtunded from the dying process) may be at risk of untreated GERD. This Fast Facts reviews treatment options for rGERD in patients with life-timing illness.