Background: Advance care planning (ACP) can help to enhance the care of patients with limited life expectancy. Despite physicians’ key role in ACP, the ways in which physicians estimate and communicate prognosis can be improved.
Aim: To determine how physicians in different care settings self-assess their performance in estimating and communicating prognosis to patients in palliative care, and how they perceive their communication with other physicians about patients’ poor prognosis.
Design & setting: A survey study was performed among a random sample of GPs, hospital physicians (HPs), and nursing home physicians (NHPs) in the southwest of the Netherlands (n = 2212).
Method: A questionnaire was developed that had three versions for GPs, HPs, and NHPs. Each specialism filled in an appropriate version.
Results: A total of 547 physicians participated: 259 GPs, 205 HPs, and 83 NHPs. In the study, 61.1% of physicians indicated being able to adequately estimate whether a patient will die within 1 year, which was associated with use of the Surprise Question (odds ratio [OR] = 1.65, P = 0.042). In the case of a prognosis of <1 year, 75.0% of physicians indicated that they communicate with patients about preferences regarding treatment and care, which was associated with physicians being trained in palliative care (OR = 2.02, P=0.007). In cases where patients with poor prognosis are discharged after hospital admission, 83.4% of HPs indicated that they inform GPs about these patients’ preferences compared with 29.0% of GPs, and 21.7% of NHPs, who indicated that they are usually adequately informed about the preferences.
Conclusion: The majority of physicians indicated that they believe they can adequately estimate patients’ limited life expectancy and that they discuss patients’ preferences for care. However, more physicians should be trained in communicating about patients’ poor prognosis and care preferences.
BACKGROUND: Preserving personal dignity is an important part of palliative care. Generally, autonomy, independency and not being a burden to others are emphasised for preserving dignity. Dignity has not been studied yet from the perspective of the growing group of patients with a migration background living in Western countries.
AIM: To gain insight into (1) what patients - and their relatives - with a Turkish, Moroccan or Surinamese background, living in the Netherlands, in their last phase of life find important aspects of dignity, and (2) how care professionals can preserve and strengthen the dignity of these patients.
DESIGN: Qualitative thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 23 patients and 21 relatives with a Turkish, Moroccan or Surinamese background were interviewed.
RESULTS: For respondents dignity encompassed surrender to God's or Allah's will and meaningful relationships with others, rather than preserving autonomy. Surrender to God or Allah meant accepting the illness, the situation and performing religious practice. A meaningful relationship meant being assisted or cared for by family members and maintaining a social role. Professionals could preserve dignity by showing respect and attention; guaranteeing physical integrity, hygiene and self-direction; and indirect communication about diagnoses and prognoses.
CONCLUSIONS: Religion and appropriate involvement of family members are important aspects of dignity in the last phase of life, in addition to autonomy and independency. Care professionals need to take these factors into account in order to provide person-centred care.
CONTEXT: Certain treatments are potentially inappropriate when administered to nursing homes residents at the end of life and should be carefully considered. An international comparison of potentially inappropriate treatments allows insight into common issues and country-specific challenges of end-of-life care in nursing homes and helps direct health care policy in this area.
OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence of potentially inappropriate treatments in the last week of life in nursing home residents, and analyze the differences in prevalence between countries.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study of deceased residents in nursing homes (2015) in six European countries: Belgium (Flanders), England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Potentially inappropriate treatments included: enteral administration of nutrition, parental administration of nutrition, artificial fluids, resuscitation, artificial ventilation, blood transfusion, chemotherapy/radiotherapy, dialysis, surgery, antibiotics, statins, antidiabetics, new oral anticoagulants. Nurses were questioned about whether these treatments were administered in the last week of life.
RESULTS: We included 1,384 deceased residents from 322 nursing homes. In most countries, potentially inappropriate treatments were rarely used, with a maximum of 18.3% of residents receiving at least one treatment in Poland. Exceptions were antibiotics in all countries (between 11.3% in Belgium and 45% in Poland), artificial nutrition and hydration in Poland (54.3%) and Italy (41%) and antidiabetics in Poland (19.7%).
CONCLUSION: Although the prevalence of potentially inappropriate treatments in the last week of life was generally low, antibiotics were frequently prescribed in all countries. In Poland and Italy, the prevalence of artificial administration of food/fluids in the last week of life was high, possibly reflecting country differences in legislation, care organization and culture, and the palliative care competences of staff.
BACKGROUND: At the end of patients' lives, physicians sometimes provide medication with the explicit intention to hasten death. Physicians' assessment of such acts varies. We studied which characteristics are associated with physicians' classification of these acts.
METHODS: This study concerns a secondary analysis of a nationwide study on the practice of medical decision-making at the end of life. In 2015, attending physicians of a sample of deceased people (n=9,351) received a questionnaire about end-of-life care and decision-making. The response rate was 78%. We studied 851 cases in which physicians reported that the patient had died as a result of medication they had provided with the explicit intention to hasten death. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: If medication had been provided with the explicit intention to hasten death at the explicit request of the patient, physicians considered "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" the most appropriate term for their course of action in 82% of all cases, while 17% of physicians chose the term "palliative or terminal sedation". Physicians' classification of their act as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" was less likely when patients had a short (1-7 days) or very short (max. 24 hours) life expectancy. Furthermore, such classification was less likely when their act had involved the use of other medication than muscle relaxants. The limited number of cases in which patients had been provided with medication without an explicit patient request were never classified as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life".
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians rarely classify the provision of medication with the explicit intention of hastening death as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" when patients are in the dying phase and when they provide other medication than muscle relaxants. In these cases, acts are mostly classified as "palliative or terminal sedation". This suggests that the legal distinction between euthanasia and palliative care may not always be clear in clinical practice.
BACKGROUND: Interest in the topic of termination of life has been growing for 2 decades. After legalisation of active euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in the Netherlands in 2002, movements to implement similar laws started in other European countries. However, many people objected to legalisation on the basis of the experiences in the Netherlands and as a matter of principal.
METHODS: This selected and focussed review presents the theoretical discussions about EAS and describes the respective parliamentary discussions in Germany and the data and experiences in the Netherlands. It also considers people with mental disorders in the context of termination-of-life services.
RESULTS: So far, only a few European countries have introduced legislation on EAS. Legalisation of EAS in the Netherlands resulted in an unexpectedly large increase in cases. The number of people with mental disorders who terminate their lives on request remains low.
CONCLUSIONS: Experience from the Netherlands shows that widening criteria for EAS has problematic consequences. KEY POINTS Termination of life on request, which a subgroup of people support, is a matter of ongoing debate. Because of several problematic aspects, including ethical considerations, only a few countries in the world allow active euthanasia or assisted suicide. Even if euthanasia is well regulated, legalising it can have problematic consequences that are difficult to control, such as an unwanted excessive increase in euthanasia cases. The well-documented experiences with the euthanasia law in the Netherlands serve as an example of what is to be expected when euthanasia is legalised. We need to pay close attention to the relationship between suicide and suicide prevention on the one hand and euthanasia acts and promotion of euthanasia on the other. Further ethical, psychological and legal research is needed. In particular, the role of palliative medicine in societies' approach to end-of-life care must be explored in much more detail.
Background: Homeless people experience multiple health problems and early mortality. In the Netherlands, they can get shelter-based end-of-life care, but shelters are predominantly focused on temporary accommodation and recovery.
Aim: To examine the characteristics of homeless people who reside at the end-of-life in shelter-based nursing care settings and the challenges in the end-of-life care provided to them.
Design: A retrospective record study using both quantitative and qualitative analysis methods.
Setting/participants: Two Dutch shelter-based nursing care settings. We included 61 homeless patients who died between 2009 and 2016.
Results: Most patients had somatic (98%), psychiatric (84%) and addiction problems (90%). For 75% of the patients, the end of life was recognised and documented; this occurred 0–1253 days before death. For 26%, a palliative care team was consulted in the year before death. In the three months before death, 45% had at least three transitions, mainly to hospitals. Sixty-five percent of the patients died in the shelter, 27% in a hospital and 3% in a hospice. A quarter of all patients were known to have died alone. Documented care difficulties concerned continuity of care, social and environmental safety, patient–professional communication and medical-pharmacological alleviation of suffering.
Conclusions: End-of-life care for homeless persons residing in shelter-based nursing care settings is characterised and challenged by comorbidities, uncertain prognoses, complicated social circumstances and many transitions to other settings. Multilevel end-of-life care improvements, including increased interdisciplinary collaboration, are needed to reduce transitions and suffering of this vulnerable population at the end of life.
CONTEXT: While much is known about factors influencing short-term implementation, little is known about what factors are relevant for the long-term sustainment of innovations. In the Dutch National Quality Improvement Programme for Palliative Care, innovations were implemented in 76 implementation projects.
OBJECTIVES: To give insight into the sustainment strategies used and factors facilitating and hindering sustainment.
METHODS: Online questionnaire with pre-structured and open questions sent to the contact persons for 76 implementation projects, 2 to 6.5 years after the start.
RESULTS: Information was gathered on 63 implementation projects (response 83%). The majority of the projects took place in home care, general practices and/or nursing homes. Sustainment was attained in 60% of the implementation projects. Six often applied strategies were statistically significantly related to sustainment: (a) realizing coherence between the innovation and the strategic policy of the organization; (b) arranging to have a specific professional responsible for the use of the innovation; (c) integrating the innovation into the organization's broader palliative care policy; (d) arranging accessibility of the innovation; (e) involving management in the implementation project; and (f) giving regular feedback about the implementation. In three quarters of the projects, barriers and facilitators were encountered relating to characteristics of the care organizations, such as employee turnover and ratification of the project by the management.
CONCLUSION: Applying the six strategies enhances sustainment. The organization plays a decisive role in the sustainment of innovations in palliative care. Engaging the management team in implementation projects from early onset is of utmost importance.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders in the first 24 hours after intracerebral hemorrhage have been associated with an increased risk of early death. This relationship is less certain for ischemic stroke. We assessed the relation between treatment restrictions and mortality in patients with ischemic stroke and in patients with intracerebral hemorrhage. We focused on the timing of treatment restrictions after admission and the type of treatment restriction (DNR order versus more restrictive care).
METHODS: We retrospectively assessed demographic and clinical data, timing and type of treatment restrictions, and vital status at 3 months for 622 consecutive stroke patients primarily admitted to a Dutch university hospital. We used a Cox regression model, with adjustment for age, sex, comorbidities, and stroke type and severity.
RESULTS: Treatment restrictions were installed in 226 (36%) patients, more frequently after intracerebral hemorrhage (51%) than after ischemic stroke (32%). In 187 patients (83%), these were installed in the first 24 hours. Treatment restrictions installed within the first 24 hours after hospital admission and those installed later were independently associated with death at 90 days (adjusted hazard ratios, 5.41 [95% CI, 3.17-9.22] and 5.36 [95% CI, 2.20-13.05], respectively). Statistically significant associations were also found in patients with ischemic stroke and in patients with just an early DNR order. In those who died, the median time between a DNR order and death was 520 hours (interquartile range, 53-737).
CONCLUSIONS: The strong relation between treatment restrictions (including DNR orders) and death and the long median time between a DNR order and death suggest that this relation may, in part, be causal, possibly due to an overall lack of aggressive care.
Importance: The option of donating organs after euthanasia is not well known. Assessment of the results of organ transplants with grafts donated after euthanasia is essential to justify the use of this type of organ donation.
Objectives: To assess the outcomes of liver transplants (LTs) with grafts donated after euthanasia (donation after circulatory death type V [DCD-V]), and to compare them with the results of the more commonly performed LTs with grafts from donors with a circulatory arrest after the withdrawal of life-supporting treatment (type III [DCD-III]).
Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective multicenter cohort study analyzed medical records and LT data for most transplant centers in the Netherlands and Belgium. All LTs with DCD-V grafts performed from the start of the donation after euthanasia program (September 2012 for the Netherlands, and January 2005 for Belgium) through July 1, 2018, were included in the analysis. A comparative cohort of patients who received DCD-III grafts was also analyzed. All patients in both cohorts were followed up for at least 1 year. Data analysis was performed from September 2019 to December 2019.
Exposures: Liver transplant with either a DCD-V graft or DCD-III graft.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes were recipient and graft survival rates at years 1, 3, and 5 after the LT. Secondary outcomes included postoperative complications (early allograft dysfunction, hepatic artery thrombosis, and nonanastomotic biliary strictures) within the first year after the LT.
Results: Among the cohort of 47 LTs with DCD-V grafts, 25 organ donors (53%) were women and the median (interquartile range [IQR]) age was 51 (44-59) years. Among the cohort of 542 LTs with DCD-III grafts, 335 organ donors (62%) were men and the median (IQR) age was 49 (37-57) years. Median (IQR) follow-up was 3.8 (2.1-6.3) years. In the DCD-V cohort, 30 recipients (64%) were men, and the median (IQR) age was 56 (48-64) years. Recipient survival in the DCD-V cohort was 87% at 1 year, 73% at 3 years, and 66% at 5 years after LT. Graft survival among recipients was 74% at 1 year, 61% at 3 years, and 57% at 5 years after LT. These survival rates did not differ statistically significantly from those in the DCD-III cohort. Incidence of postoperative complications did not differ between the groups. For example, the occurrence of early allograft dysfunction after the LT was found to be 13 (31%) in the DCD-V cohort and 219 (45%) in the DCD-III cohort. The occurrence of nonanastomotic biliary strictures after the LT was found to be 7 (15%) in the DCD-V cohort and 83 (15%) in the DCD-III cohort.
Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this cohort study suggest that LTs with DCD-V grafts yield similar outcomes as LTs with DCD-III grafts; therefore, grafts donated after euthanasia may be a justifiable option for increasing the organ donor pool. However, grafts from these donations should be considered high-risk grafts that require an optimal donor selection process and logistics.
OBJECTIVES: To explore perceptions, experiences and expectations with respect to palliative care of patients with severe mental illness (SMI) and an incurable, life-limiting chronic illness.
METHODS: Face-to-face semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 patients (10 of them living in a mental healthcare institution) with severe mental and physical health issues in the Netherlands. A semistructured interview guide was used to elicit perceptions of, experiences with and expectations regarding palliative care. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis.
RESULTS: Analysis of the data revealed eight categories: perceptions on health and health issues, coping with illness and symptoms, experiences with and wishes for current healthcare, contact with relatives and coresidents, experiences with end of life of relatives and coresidents, willingness to discuss end of life and death, wishes and expectations regarding one's own end of life and practical aspects relating to matters after death. These categories were clustered into two separate themes: current situation and anticipation of end of life. Interviewees with SMI appeared not accustomed to communicate about end-of-life issues, death and dying due to their life-threatening illness. They tended to discuss only their current situation and, after further exploration of the researcher, the terminal phase of life. They seemed not engaged in their future palliative care planning.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings of this study highlight inadequacies in advance care planning for patients with SMI. Results suggest using values, current and near wishes, and needs as a starting point for establishing a gradual discussion concerning goals and preferences for future medical and mental treatment and care.
BACKGROUND: Treatment limitation decisions (TLDs) on the ICU can be challenging, especially in patients with a malignancy. Up-to-date literature regarding TLDs in critically ill patients with a malignancy admitted to the ICU is scarce. The aim was to compare the incidence of written TLDs between patients with an active malignancy, patients with a malignancy in their medical history (complete remission, CR) and patients without a malignancy admitted unplanned to the ICU.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study in a large university hospital in the Netherlands. We identified all unplanned admissions to the ICU in 2017 and categorized the patients in 3 groups: patients with an active malignancy (study population), with CR and without a malignancy. A TLD was defined as a written instruction not to perform life-saving treatments, such as CPR in case of cardiac arrest. A multivariate binary logistic regression analysis was used to identify whether having a malignancy was associated with TLDs.
RESULTS: Of the 1046 unplanned admissions, 125 patients (12%) had an active malignancy and 76 (7.3%) patients had CR. The incidence of written TLDs in these subgroups were 37 (29.6%) and 20 (26.3%). Age (OR 1.03; 95% CI 1.01 -1.04), SOFA score at ICU admission (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.05 -1.18) and having an active malignancy (OR 1.75; 95% CI 1.04-2.96) compared to no malignancy were independently associated with written TLDs. SOFA scores on the day of the TLD were not significantly different in patients with and without a malignancy.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the presence of an underlying malignancy is independently associated with written TLDs during ICU stay. Patients with CR were not at risk of more written TLDs. Whether this higher incidence of TLDs in patients with a malignancy is justified, is at least questionable and should be evaluated in future research.
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.
Background: The EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL is a shortened version of the widely used EORTC QLQ-C30. This questionnaire was developed to measure the symptoms and functional health of patients receiving palliative care.
Objective: To enhance clinical interpretability of the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL, our aim was to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of thresholds for clinical importance developed previously for the QLQ-C30 when applied to the QLQ-C15-PAL scales.
Design: Cross-sectional observational study.
Setting/Subjects: Patients with cancer receiving any type of palliative treatment.
Measurement: Patients completed the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL and anchor items on limitations, worries, and need for help for each of the health domains covered by the questionnaire. The anchor items were summarized in a binary criterion for clinical importance to calculate the sensitivity and specificity of the thresholds for clinical importance.
Results: In total, 225 patients participated in the study (mean age 64.5 years). Patients were recruited from Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The thresholds for clinical importance for the QLQ-C15-PAL scales showed a median sensitivity of 0.88 (range: 0.82 for sleep disturbances to 1.00 for dyspnea) and a median specificity of 0.74 (range: 0.54 for dyspnea to 0.89 for constipation).
Conclusion: The thresholds for clinical importance showed high sensitivity and mostly high specificity in identifying clinically important symptoms and functional health impairments as assessed by the QLQ-C15-PAL. These thresholds will facilitate interpretation of EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL scores in daily clinical practice and clinical research.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers provide the majority of care for people with Parkinson's disease (PD) in the palliative care phase. For many this is a demanding experience, affecting their quality of life.
OBJECTIVE: We set out to map the experiences of bereaved family caregivers during the period of informal care in the palliative care phase as well as after the death of their loved one with PD.
METHODS: Ten bereaved family caregivers participated in this qualitative study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and interpretative phenomenological analysis was used executed.
RESULTS: We identified four main themes. 1) Feeling like a professional caregiver: while caring for a person with PD, the family caregivers took over many roles and tasks of the person with PD.2) Healthcare professionals do not always know what PD really means. Most interviewees had negative experiences with knowledge and understanding of PD of, especially, (practice) nurses. 3) Being on your own: many respondents had felt highly responsible for their loved one's care and lacked time and space for themselves. Grief and feelings of guilt were present during the caregiving period and after death. 4) Being behind the times: to provide palliative care in line with patients' preferences and to feel prepared for the palliative care phase of PD, proactive palliative care planning was considered important. However, the interviewees told that this was most often not provided.
CONCLUSION: These findings indicate that caring for a person with PD in the palliative care phase is a demanding experience for family caregivers. They experience psychological problems for many years before and after the death of the person with PD. Increasing healthcare professionals' awareness of family and bereaved caregivers' needs may mitigate these long-term detrimental effects.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To explore the opinion of the Dutch general public and of physicians regarding euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey.
SETTING: The Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: Random samples of 1,965 citizens (response = 1,965/2,641 [75%]) and 1,147 physicians (response = 1,147/2,232 [51%]).
MEASUREMENTS: The general public was asked to what extent they agreed with the statement "I think that people with dementia should be eligible for euthanasia, even if they no longer understand what is happening (if they have previously asked for it)." Physicians were asked whether they were of the opinion that performing euthanasia is conceivable in patients with advanced dementia, on the basis of a written advance directive, in the absence of severe comorbidities. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify factors associated with the acceptance of euthanasia.
RESULTS: A total of 60% of the general public agreed that people with advanced dementia should be eligible for euthanasia. Factors associated with a positive attitude toward euthanasia were being female, age between 40 and 69 years, and higher educational level. Considering religion important was associated with lower acceptance. The percentage of physicians who considered it acceptable to perform euthanasia in people with advanced dementia was 24% for general practitioners, 23% for clinical specialists, and 8% for nursing home physicians. Having ever performed euthanasia before was positively associated with physicians considering euthanasia conceivable. Being female, having religious beliefs, and being a nursing home physician were negatively associated with regarding performing euthanasia as conceivable.
CONCLUSION: There is a discrepancy between public acceptance of euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia and physicians' conceivability of performing euthanasia in these patients. This discrepancy may cause tensions in daily practice because patients' and families' expectations may not be met. It urges patients, families, and physicians to discuss mutual expectations in these complex situations in a comprehensive and timely manner.
PURPOSE: Investigate whether Life Review Therapy and Memory Specificity Training (LRT-MST) targeting incurably ill cancer patients may also have a beneficial effect on caregiving burden, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and posttraumatic growth of the informal caregivers.
METHODS: Data was collected in the context of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) (secondary analyses) on the effect of LRT-MST among incurably cancer patients. Informal caregivers of participating patients were asked to complete outcome measures at baseline (T0), post-intervention (T1), and 1-month follow-up (T2): caregiver burden (caregivers reaction assessment scale (CRA)), symptoms of anxiety and depression (hospital anxiety and depression scale), and posttraumatic growth (posttraumatic growth inventory). Linear mixed models (intention to treat) were used to assess group differences in changes over time. Effect size and independent samples t tests were used to assess group differences at T1 and T2.
RESULTS: In total, 64 caregivers participated. At baseline, 56% of the caregivers experienced anxiety and 30% depression. No significant effect was found on these symptoms nor on posttraumatic growth or most aspects of caregiver burden. There was a significant effect of LRT-MST on the course of self-esteem (subscale CRA) (p = 0.013). Effect size was moderate post-intervention (ES = - 0.38, p = 0.23) and at 3-month follow-up (ES = 0.53, p = 0.083).
CONCLUSIONS: Many caregivers of incurably ill cancer patients experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. LRT-MST does not improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, negative aspects of caregiver burden, or posttraumatic growth. LRT-MST may have a protective effect on self-esteem of informal caregivers (positive aspect of caregiver burden).
OBJECTIVE: To identify barriers, as perceived by parents, to good care for children with life-threatening conditions.
DESIGN: In a nationwide qualitative study, we held in-depth interviews regarding end-of-life care with parents of children (aged 1 to 12 years) who were living with a life-threatening illness or who had died after a medical trajectory (a maximum of 5 years after the death of the child). Sampling was aimed at obtaining maximum variety for a number of factors. The interviews were transcribed and analysed.
SETTING: The Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: 64 parents of 44 children.
RESULTS: Parents identified six categories of difficulties that create barriers in the care for children with a life-threatening condition. First, parents wished for more empathetic and open communication about the illness and prognosis. Second, organisational barriers create bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of continuity of care. Third, parents wished for more involvement in decision-making. Fourth, parents wished they had more support from the healthcare team on end-of-life decision-making. Fifth, parents experienced a lack of attention for the family during the illness and after the death of their child. Sixth, parents experienced an overemphasis on symptom-treatment and lack of attention for their child as a person.
CONCLUSIONS: The barriers as perceived by parents focussed almost without exception on non-medical aspects: patient-doctor relationships; communication; decision-making, including end-of-life decision-making; and organisation. The perceived barriers indicate that care for children with a life-threatening condition focusses too much on symptoms and not enough on the human beings behind these symptoms.
BACKGROUND: Palliative care should be holistic, but spiritual issues are often overlooked. General practitioners and nurses working together in PaTz-groups (palliative home care groups) consider spiritual issues in palliative care to be relevant, but experience barriers in addressing spiritual issues and finding spiritual caregivers. This study evaluates the feasibility and perceived added value of a listening consultation service by spiritual caregivers in primary palliative care.
METHODS: From December 2018 until September 2019, we piloted a listening consultation service in which spiritual caregivers joined 3 PaTz-groups whose members referred patients or their relatives with spiritual care needs to them. Evaluation occurred through (i) monitoring of the implementation, (ii) in-depth interviews with patients (n = 5) and involved spiritual caregivers (n = 5), (iii) short group interviews in 3 PaTz-groups (17 GPs, 10 nurses and 3 palliative consultants), and (iv) questionnaires filled out by the GP after each referral, and by the spiritual caregiver after each consultation. Data was analysed thematically and descriptively.
RESULTS: Consultations mostly took place on appointment at the patients home instead of originally intended walk-in consultation hours. Consultations were most often with relatives (72%), followed by patients and relatives together (17%) and patients (11%). Relatives also had more consecutive consultations (mean 4.1 compared to 2.2 for patients). Consultations were on existential and relational issues, loss, grief and identity were main themes. Start-up of the referrals took more time and effort than expected. In time, several GPs of each PaTz-group referred patients to the spiritual caregiver. In general, consultations and joint PaTz-meetings were experienced as of added value. All patients and relatives as well as several GPs and nurses experienced more attention for and awareness of the spiritual domain. Patients and relatives particularly valued professional support of spiritual caregivers, as well as recognition of grief as an normal aspect of life.
CONCLUSIONS: If sufficient effort is given to implementation, listening consultation services can be a good method for PaTz-groups to find and cooperate with spiritual caregivers, as well as for integrating spiritual care in primary palliative care. This may strengthen care in the spiritual domain, especially for relatives who are mourning.
BACKGROUND: Palliative needs in older patients are often not timely identified. The Surprise Question (SQ) 'would I be surprised if this patient died in the next year?' is a well-researched tool that could aid in this effort. Most studies thus far involved physicians or specialist nurses, however the predictive value of the SQ when used by general nurses caring for hospitalized older patients is unknown.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the predictive value of the SQ when used by general nurses and student nurses, in determining one year mortality in acutely hospitalized older patients.
DESIGN: Observational cohort study with an one year follow-up.
SETTING: One academic and one regional hospital in the Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients >=70 years acutely hospitalized for at least 48 hours.
METHODS: Registered nurses and student nurses answered the SQ with 'No' (a positive SQ), 'Yes' or 'Don't know'. Data on student nurses was analysed separately. The sensitivity, specificity, negative- and positive predictive values were calculated. Furthermore, logistic regression was performed to determine the odds of death.
RESULTS: 66 registered nurses answered the SQ for 252 patients of whom 77 (30.6%) died in the year after inclusion. Respectively, 44%, 14% and 22% died within the 'No', 'Yes' and 'Don't know' group. 85% of patients who died during admission or in the first three months post-discharge were identified. The sensitivity and specificity were 76.7% and 56.6%. The positive and negative predictive values were 43.7% and 84.6 %. Compared to persons in whom the SQ was answered with yes, a no answer was associated with an 4.7 times increased odds of dying in the next 12 months (odds ratio 4.71, 95% CI 2.43-9.12, p<0.001). Additionally, 20 student nurses answered the SQ about 73 patients; sensitivity and specificity were 46.7% and 72.1%, with a positive and negative predictive value of 53.8% and 66.0% respectively.
CONCLUSION: The usability of the Surprise Question in predicting 12-month mortality in older acutely admitted patients is limited, due to the high false positive rate. The SQ when used by non-specialized nurses identifies vulnerable patients with an increased mortality risk and can be used as a first step in assessing a patients' palliative needs, but has limited use as a single criterion for referral to specialist palliative care.