BACKGROUND: The goals of palliative care are to relieve suffering and promote quality of life. Palliative care for older persons has been less prioritised than palliative care for younger people with cancer, which may lead to unnecessary suffering and decreased quality of life at the final stage of life.
AIM: To evaluate whether a palliative care intervention had any influence on the perceived quality of life of older persons (=65 years).
METHODS: This study was conducted as a complex intervention performed with an experimental crossover design. The intervention was implemented in 20 nursing homes, with a six-month intervention period in each nursing home. Twenty-three older persons (=65 years) in the intervention group and 29 in the control group were interviewed using the WHOQOL-BREF and WHOQOL-OLD questionnaires at both baseline and follow-up. The collected data were analysed using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test to compare paired data between baseline and follow-up.
RESULTS: In the intervention group, no statistically significant increases in quality of life were found. This result contrasted with the control group, which revealed statistically significant declines in quality of life at both the dimension and item levels. Accordingly, this study showed a trend of decreased health after nine months in both the intervention and control groups.
CONCLUSION: It is reasonable to believe that quality of life decreases with age as part of the natural course of the ageing process. However, it seems that the palliative care approach of the intervention prevented unnecessary quality of life decline by supporting sensory abilities, autonomy and social participation among older persons in nursing homes. From the ageing perspective, it may not be realistic to strive for an increased quality of life in older people living in nursing homes; maybe the goal should be to delay or prevent reduced quality of life. Based on this perspective, the intervention prevented decline in quality of life in nursing home residents.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The high number of deaths shows the importance to identify palliative care needs in older persons at an early stage to prevent or delay deterioration of quality of life.
BACKGROUND: While the need for palliative care in long-term care facilities is growing, it is unknown whether palliative care in this setting is sufficiently developed.
AIM: To describe and compare in six European countries palliative care provision in long-term care facilities and to assess associations between patient, facility and advance care planning factors and receipt and timing of palliative care.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional after-death survey regarding care provided to long-term care residents in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Generalized estimating equations were used for analyses.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Nurses or care assistants who are most involved in care for the resident.
RESULTS: We included 1298 residents in 300 facilities, of whom a majority received palliative care in most countries (England: 72.6%-Belgium: 77.9%), except in Poland (14.0%) and Italy (32.1%). Palliative care typically started within 2 weeks before death and was often provided by the treating physician (England: 75%-the Netherlands: 98.8%). A palliative care specialist was frequently involved in Belgium and Poland (57.1% and 86.7%). Residents with cancer, dementia or a contact person in their record more often received palliative care, and it started earlier for residents with whom the nurse had spoken about treatments or the preferred course of care at the end of life.
CONCLUSION: The late initiation of palliative care (especially when advance care planning is lacking) and palliative care for residents without cancer, dementia or closely involved relatives deserve attention in all countries. Diversity in palliative care organization might be related to different levels of its development.
OBJECTIVE: End-of-life communication has been largely recognized to promote quality end-of-life care in nursing home (NHs) by increasing residents' likelihood of receiving comfort-oriented care. This scoping review summarizes what is known about the potential mechanisms by which end-of-life communication may contribute to palliative-oriented care in NHs.
METHODS: Using the framework proposed by Arksey and O'Malley and refined by the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology, five literature databases were searched. We extracted 2159 articles, 11 of which met the inclusion criteria: seven quantitative, three qualitative, and one mixed-methods study.
RESULTS: Three mechanisms were identified: a) promotion of family carers' understanding about their family member's health condition, prognosis, and treatments available; b) fostering of shared decision-making between health care professionals (HCPs) and residents/family carers; and c) using and improving knowledge about residents' preferences.
CONCLUSION: Family carers' understanding, shared decision-making, and knowledge of residents' preferences contribute to palliative-oriented care in NHs.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Discussions about end-of-life should take place early in a resident's disease trajectory to allow time for family carers to understand the condition and participate in subsequent, mindful, shared decision-making. HCPs should conduct systematic and thorough discussions about end-of-life treatment options with all cognitively competent residents to promote informed advance directives.
Population-based surveys suggest that up to 70% of Australians wish to receive care at home when faced with advanced terminal illness; however, only 14% achieve this goal. This is a comparatively low rate compared to other developed countries and due to a myriad of factors, including care fragmentation, lack of advance care planning, inadequate symptom control and limited availability of community-based palliative care services.
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BACKGROUND: Improving access to palliative care for older adults living in residential care is recognised internationally as a pressing clinical need. The integration of specialist palliative care in residential care for older adults is not yet standard practice.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to understand the experience and impact of integrating a specialist palliative care model on residents, relatives and staff.
METHODS: Focus groups were held with staff (n=40) and relatives (n=17). Thematic analysis was applied to the data.
RESULTS: Three major themes were identified. The intervention led to (1) normalising death and dying in these settings, (2) timely access to a palliative care specialist who was able to prescribe anticipatory medications aiding symptom management and unnecessary hospitalisations and (3) better decision-making and planned care for residents, which meant that staff and relatives were better informed about, and prepared for, the resident's likely trajectory.
CONCLUSIONS: The intervention normalised death and dying and also underlined the important role that specialists play in providing staff education, timely access to medicines and advance care planning. The findings from our study, and the growing wealth of evidence integrating specialist palliative care in residential care for older adults, indicate a number of priorities for care providers, academics and policymakers. Further work on determining the role of primary and specialist palliative care services in residential care settings is needed to inform service delivery models.
People with advanced dementia living in care homes can experience social death before their physical death. Social death occurs when a person is no longer recognised as being an active agent within their relationships. A shift is required in how we perceive people with advanced dementia so that the ways they continue to be active in their relationships are noticed. Paying attention to embodied and interembodied selfhood broadens the scope and opportunities for relationships with people with advanced dementia, acting as a counter to social death. This has the potential to improve the quality of care, including end of life care, of people with advanced dementia in care homes. This study examined the role of embodied and interembodied selfhood within care-giving/care-receiving relationships in a specialist dementia care home. Empirical findings and their implications for the development of relationship-centred care and the Senses Framework in care homes are discussed.
CONTEXT: Infections in nursing home (NH) residents are often terminal illnesses. Integration of palliative care (PC) and infection management (IM), is a new concept that can help reduce burdensome treatments and improve quality of care for NH residents at the end-of-life.
OBJECTIVES: To develop measures of integration, describe the integration in US NHs, and examine predictors of integration.
METHODS: A nationally representative sample of NHs was surveyed. An instrument to measure integration was tested using factor analyses. Descriptive analyses were conducted of each integration factor, construct validity was examined using correlations between the integration factors and validated measures of PC and IM, and multivariable linear regression models were developed to identify NH characteristics associated with integration.
RESULTS: A total of 892 NH surveys were returned (49% response rate), 859 with complete data. Three integration factors were identified: patient involvement in care planning (Involvement), formalized advance care planning (Advance Care Planning), and routine practices of integration (Routine Practices). The highest level of integration in NHs was reported for Involvement (mean (µ) = 73.2, standard error [SE] = 1.57), with lower rates for Advance Care Planning and Routine Practices (respectively, µ = 34.1, SE = 1.05; µ = 31.4, SE = 1.48). Each integration measure was weakly, positively associated with the PC and IM measures (r = 0.25, P = 0.01). There were few associations between NH characteristics and integration.
CONCLUSION: Integration is a distinct concept that is associated but different from PC and IM. Results serve as a baseline assessment of integration in NHs. Continued refinement of the integration instrument is recommended as is studying if higher integration leads to better resident outcomes.
BACKGROUND: The needs of care based on palliative principles are stressed for all people with progressive and/or life-limiting conditions, regardless of age and the place in which care is provided. Person-centred palliative care strives to make the whole person visible and prioritizes the satisfaction of spiritual, existential, social, and psychological needs to the same extent as physical needs. However, person-centred palliative care for older persons in nursing homes seems to be sparse, possibly because staff in nursing homes do not have sufficient knowledge, skills, and training in managing symptoms and other aspects of palliative care.
METHODS: This study aimed to evaluate whether an educational intervention had any effect on the staff's perception of providing person-centred palliative care for older persons in nursing homes.
METHODS: A knowledge-based palliative care intervention consisting of five 2-h seminars during a 6-month period was implemented at 20 nursing homes in Sweden. In total, 365 staff members were participated, 167 in the intervention group and 198 in the control group. Data were collected using two questionnaires, the Person-centred Care Assessment Tool (P-CAT) and the Person-Centred Climate Questionnaire (PCQ-S), answered before (baseline) and 3 months after (follow-up) the educational intervention was completed. Descriptive, comparative, and univariate logistical regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Both the intervention group and the control group revealed high median scores in all subscales at baseline, except for the subscale amount of organizational and environmental support in the P-CAT. The staff's high rating level of person-centred care before the intervention provides limited space for further improvements at follow-up.
CONCLUSION: This study shows that staff perceived that managers' and the organization's amount of support to them in their everyday work was the only area for improvement in order to maintain person-centred care. The experiences among staff are crucial knowledge in understanding how palliative care can be made person-centred in spite of often limited resources in nursing homes. The dose and intensity of education activities of the intervention model need to be tested in future research to develop the most effective implementation model.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02708498 . Date of registration 26 February 2016.
OBJECTIVE: Dependency on others can compromise self-determination for older persons in the palliative phase in residential care. Family members can support the residents' self-determination but may also jeopardize it. Quality of care (QoC) is linked to respecting the autonomy of the residents and providing opportunities to participate in decision-making. The aim of the study was to provide knowledge about residents' and family members' perceptions of QoC and self-determination and to detect possible differences between their experiences.
METHOD: This cross-sectional study used an abbreviated version of the questionnaire, Quality from the Patients' Perspective, with additional items about decision-making. Wilcoxon's signed rank test was used to analyze the perception of QoC and to detect differences between residents' and family members' perceptions.
RESULT: QoC was perceived as lower than preferred in the majority of items and there was a high level of agreement between residents and family members. Lowest mean values in QoC were found in: support when feeling lonely; support when feeling worry, anxiety or fear; and staff's time to talk to the residents. Decision-making in everyday life and in life-changing situations showed that neither residents nor family members trusted staff to know about the residents' preferences.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Broad improvements are needed, especially in psychosocial care. Several of the negative outcomes on QoC and self-determination seem to derive from a focus on practical tasks and the lack of trustful relationships between residents and staff. An early implementation of palliative care, with a focus on what brings quality to each resident's life, could facilitate QoC and self-determination, in both everyday life and at the end of life.
Objective: To investigate clinicians' perspectives on the factors that shape the process of advance care planning in a nursing home context.
Design: Interviews. Latent qualitative content analysis.
Setting: Nine nursing homes in Sweden. Subjects: 14 physicians and 11 nurses working at nursing homes.
Main outcome measures:
Participants' views on advance care planning (ACP) at nursing homes.
Results: The analysis of the interviews resulted in four manifest categories: Exploration of preferences and views, e.g. exploring patient wishes regarding end-of-life issues and restrictions in care at an early stage, and sensitivity to patient's readiness to discuss end-of-life issues; Integration of preferences and views, e.g. integration of patient's preferences and staff's and family member's views; Decision & documentation of the ACP, e.g. clear documentation in patient's medical records that are up-to-date and available for staff caring for the patient, and Implementation & re-evaluation of the ACP, e.g. nurse following up after ACP-appointment to confirm the content of the documented ACP. The latent theme, Establishing beneficence - defending oneself against tacit accusations of maleficence, emerged as a deeper meaning of all the four (manifest) parts of the ACP-process
Conclusion: This study stresses the importance of involving patients, family members, and the team in the work with advance care planning in nursing homes. In addition, clear medical record documentation and proficiency in end-of-life communication related to advance care planning for physicians as well as nurses may also be factors that significantly shape advance care planning in a nursing home context. Key Points Advance care planning can help patients to receive care in line with their preferences and can positively impact quality of end-of-life care. Our results describe a process consisting of four manifest categories and one latent theme constituting the process of advance care planning, that may be considered in education in advance care planning. The significance of nurses and physicians perceiving beneficence as well as fear of accusations of maleficence are important factors to contemplate. The study has implications for healthcare staff caring for patients near the end of their lives, in particular patients in nursing homes.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the quality of end of life care in long-term care (LTC) for residents with different diagnostic trajectories. The aim of this study was to compare symptoms before death in LTC for those with cancer, dementia or chronic illness.
METHODS: After-death prospective staff survey of resident deaths with random cluster sampling in 61 representative LTC facilities across New Zealand (3709 beds). Deaths (n = 286) were studied over 3 months in each facility. Standardised questionnaires - Symptom Management (SM-EOLD) and Comfort Assessment in End of life with Dementia (CAD-EOLD) - were administered to staff after the resident’s death.
RESULTS: Primary diagnoses at the time of death were dementia (49%), chronic illness (30%), cancer (17%), and dementia and cancer (4%). Residents with cancer had more community hospice involvement (30%) than those with chronic illness (12%) or dementia (5%). There was no difference in mean SM-EOLD in the last month of life by diagnosis (cancer 26.9 (8.6), dementia 26.5(8.2), chronic illness 26.9(8.6). Planned contrast analyses of individual items found people with dementia had more pain and those with cancer had less anxiety. There was no difference in mean CAD-EOLD scores in the week before death by diagnosis (total sample 33.7(SD 5.2), dementia 34.4(SD 5.2), chronic illness 33.0(SD 5.1), cancer 33.3(5.1)). Planned contrast analyses showed significantly more physical symptoms for those with dementia and chronic illness in the last month of life than those with cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, symptoms in the last week and month of life did not vary by diagnosis. However, sub-group planned contrast analyses found those with dementia and chronic illness experienced more physical distress during the last weeks and months of life than those with cancer. These results highlight the complex nature of LTC end of life care that requires an integrated gerontology/palliative care approach.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life care practices in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) are the focus of growing attention in Europe, due to rapidly increasing number of older persons living in LTCFs. The knowledge about end-of-life discussions or existence of written advance directives in the European LTCFs is scarce. This study's aim is to investigate the prevalence of written advance directives and their sociodemographic associates, among recently deceased LTCF residents, in six European countries.
METHODS: Data from the European Union-funded PACE database were collected from 322 LTCFs in six European countries in 2014. The assessments were performed by using two questionnaires designed for LTCF administrative staff and for staff member.LTCFs were selected within each country by using proportional stratified random sampling procedure. Facilities with certain types and sizes were included from each country.Multilevel multivariate analyses were performed to evaluate associations between written advance directives and selected predictors.
RESULTS: In total, 32.5 % of the 1384 deceased LTCF residents had a written advance directive with a range from 0% to 77 % between countries. The proportion of the most common advance directive, 'Do not resuscitate in case of cardiac or respiratory arrest (DNR)', varied correspondingly from 0% to 75%.LTCF type (OR 2.86 95% CI 1.59 to 5.23) and capability of expressing at the time of admission (OR 3.26 95% CI 2.26 to 4.71) were the independent predictors for advance directive. Residents living in LTCFs where physician was available were less likely to have advance directive compared with residents from LTCFs where physician was not available.
CONCLUSION: Extensive differences for prevalence of written advance directive exist between countries among older LTCF residents in Europe. Timely and appropriate response to LTCF resident's health needs and preferences efforts advance care planning.
In Norway, approximately 50% of older people die in nursing homes (NH). Holistic care and pharmacological management are key factors in quality at the end of life. The purpose of this longitudinal study was to describe the use of opioids in an NH during a 5-year period. We focused on palliative care, symptoms, and suffering during the last 3 days before death. Data were collected from spring 2013 to spring 2018. We used the interRAI assessment instrument annually and when the resident died. We conducted a semi-structured interview with nurses on duty at the deathbed. At the time of death, the residents had an average age of 88.9 years and an average stay of 2.9 years (N = 100). At the first assessment, 19% of the residents used 1 or more type of opioids. On the day of death, 55% had an active prescription for opioids, mainly as subcutaneous injections. The results illustrate the different uses of opioids, including managing pain, dyspnoea, sedation, for comfort, as a prophylaxis, or a combination of reasons. Cancer- and cardiovascular diagnoses were the strongest predictor for using morphine (P < 0.05). Identification of the residents’ needs for opioids is a challenge for palliative care nurses, both ethically and legally.
Context: Advance care planning (ACP) documentation needs to be available at the point of care to guide and inform medical treatment decision-making.
Objective: To examine concordance between self-reported completion of ACP documentation and self-reported storage of the documentation at the person's current point of care with the availability of the documentation in that person's health record.
Methods: A national multicenter audit of health records and a self-report survey of eligible audit participants in 51 Australian health and residential aged care services. The audit assessed availability of ACP documentation in the health record, whereas the survey assessed self-reported completion and storage of the ACP documentation at the person's current place of care. To ascertain concordance, survey and audit data were cross-tabulated and concordance rates and kappa statistics were calculated overall and by health care sector and ACP documentation type.
Results: The audit included 2285 people, of whom 1082 were eligible for the survey. Of 507 who completed the survey (response rate = 47%), 272 (54%) reported completing ACP documentation, of whom 130 (48%) had documentation identified in the audit. Conversely, 39 of 235 people (17%) who reported not completing ACP documentation had documentation identified (concordance rate = 64%; = 0.303, P < .001). The concordance rate increased to 79% when self-reported storage of ACP documentation at the person's current point of care was compared with the existence of the document in their health record ( = 0.510, P < .001). Concordance varied by health care setting and type of ACP documentation.
Conclusion: Discrepancies exist between self-reported completion of ACP documentation and the presence of these documents in the health records of older adults, representing a significant patient safety issue. Public education campaigns and improvements to systems for document storage and accessibility are required to support person-centered medical and end-of-life care.
OBJECTIVES: To describe the rate of do-not-resuscitate (DNR) and do-not-hospitalize (DNH) orders among residents newly admitted into long-term care homes. We also assessed the association between DNR and DNH orders with hospital admissions, deaths in hospital, and survival.
DESIGN: A retrospective cohort study.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Admissions in all 640 publicly funded long-term care homes in Ontario, Canada, between January 1, 2010 and March 1, 2012 (n = 49,390).
MEASURES: We examined if a DNR and/or DNH was recorded on resident's admission assessment. All residents were followed until death, discharge, or end of study to ascertain rates of several outcomes, including death and hospitalization, controlling for resident characteristics.
RESULTS: Upon admission, 60.7% of residents were recorded to have a DNR and 14.8% a DNH order. Those who were older, female, widowed, lived in rural facilities, lived in higher income neighborhoods prior to entry, had higher health instability or cognitive impairment, and spoke English or French were more likely to receive a DNR or DNH. Survival time was only slightly shorter for those with a DNR and DNH with a mean of 145 and 133 days, respectively, vs 160 and 153 days for those without a DNR and DNH. After controlling for age, sex, rurality, neighborhood income, marital status, health instability, cognitive performance score, and multimorbidity, DNR and DNH were associated with an odds ratio of 0.57 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53-0.62] and 0.41 (95% CI 0.37-0.46) for dying in hospital, respectively. Those with a DNR and DNH, after adjustment, had an incidence rate ratio of 0.87 (95% CI 0.83-0.90) and 0.70 (95% CI 0.67-0.73), respectively, days spent in hospital.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study outlines identifiable factors influencing whether residents have a DNR and/or DNH order upon admission. Both orders led to lower rates, but not absolute avoidance, of hospitalizations near and at death.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: The Optimizing Patient Transfers, Impacting Medical Quality, Improving Symptoms: Transforming Institutional Care (OPTIMISTIC) project is a successful, multicomponent demonstration project to reduce potentially avoidable hospitalizations of long-stay nursing facility residents. Systematic advance care planning (ACP) is a core component of the intervention, based on research suggesting ACP is associated with decreased hospitalizations of nursing facility residents. The purpose of this study was to describe associations between ACP documentation resulting from the OPTIMISTIC intervention and hospitalizations.
DESIGN: Specially trained project nurses were embedded in 19 nursing facilities and systematically engaged in ACP as part of a larger demonstration project.
PARTICIPANTS: Residents (n = 1482) enrolled in the demonstration project for a minimum of 30 days between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016.
MEASUREMENTS: ACP status: (1) Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) comfort measures or do not hospitalize (DNH) orders; (2) ACP orders with no hospitalization limit (eg, code status only); and (3) no ACP (potentially avoidable and all-cause hospitalizations per 1000 resident days).
RESULTS: Residents with POST comfort measures/DNH orders (33.2% or n = 493) were less likely than residents with no ACP (14.7% or n = 218) to experience a potentially avoidable hospitalization (P = .001) or all-cause hospitalization (P = .001). These differences became statistically nonsignificant after adjusting for age, functional status, and cognitive functioning.
CONCLUSION: In this successful multicomponent demonstration project to reduce potentially avoidable hospitalizations, ACP outcomes were not associated with hospitalization rates of nursing facility residents after adjusting for resident characteristics. These findings highlight the challenge of measuring the contributions of individual components of complex, multicomponent interventions. Associations between lower hospitalization rates and ACP completion may be influenced by contextual factors, such as clinical expertise and resources to manage acute conditions leading to hospitalization, in addition to interventions to increase ACP.
BACKGROUND: Nursing homes are becoming a common site where delivering end-of-life care for older adults. They often represent the junction between the curative and the palliative phase.
AIM: To identify the elements that nursing home residents' family carers perceive as good end-of-life care and develop a conceptual model of good end-of-life care according to the family perspective.
DESIGN: Systematic review (PROSPERO no. 95581) with meta-aggregation method.
DATA SOURCES: Five electronic databases were searched from inception between April and May 2018. Published qualitative studies (and mixed-method designs) of end-of-life care experience of nursing home family carers whose relative was dead or at the end-of-life were included. No language or temporal limits were applied.
RESULTS: In all, 18 studies met inclusion criteria. A 'life crisis' often resulted in a changed need of care, and the transition towards palliative care was sustained by a 'patient-centered environment'. Family carers described good end-of-life care as providing resident basic care and spiritual support; recognizing and treating symptoms; assuring continuity in care; respecting resident's end-of-life wishes; offering environmental, emotional and psychosocial support; keeping family informed; promoting family understanding; and establishing a partnership with family carers by involving and guiding them in a shared decision-making. These elements improved the quality of end-of-life of both residents and their family, thus suggesting a common ground between good end-of-life care and palliative care.
CONCLUSION: The findings provide a family-driven framework to guide a sensitive and compassionate transition towards palliative care in nursing home.
Between 2014 and 2017, four patients with widespread cancer were referred to a home palliative care team from a hospital in Oviedo (Spain) with subcutaneous elastomeric infusion pump containing 180-260 mg/day of morphine for previously uncontrolled pain. 3-4 rotations were performed over 5-11 days, gradually substituting morphine for oral methadone (three times a day) to minimise the risks of rapid conversion, with a highly variable final subcutaneous morphine:oral methadone ratio (5:1 to 17:1), guided by the absence of pain, and to enhance the patient's functional capacity avoiding device dependence. The final methadone dose varied between 15 and 39 mg/day. There was daily telephone supervision and visits every 2-4 days. Patient demise occurred 56, 111, 168 and 350 days following the opioid conversion, and methadone was maintained until then. In all cases and prior to concluding the rotation, pain was controlled and sleepiness had subsided.
OBJECTIVE: To examine perceptions and experiences regarding providing spiritual care at the end of life of elderly care physicians practising in nursing homes in the Netherlands, and factors associated with spiritual care provision.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was sent to a representative sample of 642 elderly care physicians requesting information about their last patient who died and the spiritual care they provided. We compared their general perception of spiritual care with spiritual and other items abstracted from the literature and variables associated with the physicians' provision of spiritual care. Self-reported reasons for providing spiritual care were analysed with qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: The response rate was 47.2%. Almost half (48.4%) provided spiritual end-of-life care to the last resident they cared for. Half (51.8%) identified all 15 spiritual items, but 95.4% also included psychosocial items in their perception of spirituality and 49.1% included other items. Physicians who included more non-spiritual items reported more often that they provided spiritual care, as did more religious physicians and those with additional training in palliative care. Reasons for providing spiritual care included a request by the resident or the relatives, resident's religiousness, fear of dying and involvement of a healthcare chaplain.
CONCLUSION: Most physicians perceived spirituality as a broad concept and this increased self-reported spiritual caregiving. Religious physicians and those trained in palliative care may experience fewer barriers to providing spiritual care. Additional training in reflecting upon the physician's own perception of spirituality and training in multidisciplinary spiritual caregiving may contribute to the quality of end-of-life care for nursing home residents.
To individually plan end-of-life care, open communication about a person's preferences and attitudes toward the end of life can facilitate dignity and quality of life in patients and relatives. To improve communication, structured guiding tools might be used as door openers. However, most tools focus on care preferences and decisions without assessing the person's underlying attitudes in detail. This study aims to get insights into specific requirements and conditions for communication about the end of life in various end-of-life care settings. Four focus groups were conducted with volunteers and professionals from nursing and psychosocial care (16 females, 2 males) working in hospice and palliative care and long-term care settings in Germany. A semistructured interview guideline on experiences and aspects associated with end-of-life conversations was used. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed by a content analytic approach. Having end-of-life discussions primarily depended on a pleasant atmosphere, trusting bonds between conversation partners, and professional attitudes of staff members. Nursing home staff felt obligated to initiate conversations, but some reported insecurities doing so. Starting "early," including relatives, and having continuous discussions seemed beneficial for end-of-life conversations. Implementing conversations into existing care structures and using low-threshold impulses to start conversations were helpful. Individualized approaches should be preferred. Each staff member can be a partner in detailed conversations about end-of-life attitudes, but some felt unprepared doing so. Further skill training concerning end-of-life discussions is needed. Communication might be facilitated by open-format tools using low-threshold impulses when conditions of the care setting are considered.