Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), in particular acute coronary syndrome (ACS), comprising ST-elevation myocardial infarction, non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction and unstable angina, is the leading cause of death worldwide. Age is a major predictor of adverse outcome following ACS. COVID-19 infection seems to escalate the risk in older patients with heart disease. Increasing odds of in-hospital death is associated with older age following COVID-19 infection. Importantly, it seems older patients with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), in particular IHD, diabetes and hypertension, are at the highest risk of mortality following COVID-19 infection. The evidence is sparse on the optimal care of older patients with ACS with lack of robust randomised controlled trials. In this setting, with the serious threat imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of rapidly evolving knowledge with much unknown, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of treatment strategies offered to older patients. In cases where risks outweigh the benefits, it might not be an unreasonable option to treat such patients with a conservative or a palliative approach. Further evidence to elucidate whether invasive management is beneficial in older patients with ACS is required out-with the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it is hoped that the actual acute phase of COVID-19 infection will be short lived, it is vital that important clinical research is continued, given the long-term benefits of ongoing clinical research for patients with long-term conditions, including CVD. This review aimed to evaluate the challenges and the management strategies in the care of older patients presenting with ACS in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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While the whole population is at risk from infection with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), older people – often frail and subject to multimorbidity – are at highest risk for severe and fatal disease. Experience from Italy shows a median age at death of 79 years for men and 82 for women. Severe illness with an uncertain outcome and end-of-life situations call for good palliative care for the patients concerned. The Association for Geriatric Palliative Medicine (FGPG) promotes the integration of a palliative care approach and skills into the care of elderly and very elderly people – both in the inpatient setting and at home. The current pandemic and the publication of the SAMS Guidelines “COVID-19 pandemic: triage for intensive-care treatment under resource scarcity” have prompted the FGPG to prepare these recommendations for practice.
Purpose: We studied the prevalence of medications of questionable benefit in the last 6 months of life among older nursing home residents with and without dementia in Germany.
Methods: a retrospective cohort study was conducted on claims data from 67,328 deceased nursing home residents aged 65+ years who were admitted between 2010 and 2014. We analyzed prescription regimens of medications of questionable benefit in the 180–91-day period and the 90-day period prior to death for residents with dementia (n = 29,052) and without dementia (n = 38,276). Factors associated with new prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit prior to death were analyzed using logistic regression models among all nursing home residents and stratified by dementia.
Results: A higher proportion of nursing home residents with dementia were prescribed at least one medication of questionable benefit in the 180–91-day (29.6%) and 90-day (26.8%) periods prior to death, compared with residents without dementia (180–91 days, 22.8%; 90 days, 20.1%). Lipid-lowering agents were the most commonly prescribed medications. New prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit were more common among residents with dementia (9.8% vs. 8.7%). When excluding anti-dementia medication, new prescriptions of these medications were more common among residents without dementia (6.4% vs. 8.0%). The presence of dementia (odds ratio [OR] 1.40, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 1.32–1.48) and excessive polypharmacy were associated with new prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit prior to death (OR 4.74, 95%CI 4.15–5.42).
Conclusion: even when accounting for anti-dementia prescriptions, the prevalence of nursing home residents with dementia receiving medications of questionable benefit is considerable and may require further attention.
Context and Objectives: The myriad of benefits of early palliative care (PC) integration in oncology are well established, and emerging evidence suggests that PC improves symptom burden, mood, and quality of life for hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients. Specific impact of PC consultation on outcomes of older allogeneic HCT (allo-HCT) recipients, a historically high-risk population vulnerable to transplant-related complications and mortality, has not been explored.
Design and Methods: In this single institution, retrospective analysis of 527 first allo-HCT recipients aged =60 years, we characterized 75 patients who had received post-HCT PC consultation and its association with geriatric vulnerabilities identified by pre-HCT geriatric assessment. We also examined end-of-life care outcomes among patients who died within one-year of allo-hematopoietic cell transplantation.
Results: In multivariate analysis, higher disease risk, female gender, and, importantly, pre-HCT functional limitation (hazard ratio 2.35, 95% confidence interval, 1.35–4.09, p = 0.003) were associated with post-HCT PC utilization. Within one-year of hematopoietic cell transplantation, 127 patients died; among those, recipients of early PC consultation had significantly higher rates of hospice enrollment (25% vs. 9%, p = 0.019) and lower rates of hospital death (71% vs. 90%, p = 0.013), intensive care unit admission (44% vs. 75%, p = 0.001), and high-intensity medical care in last 30 days of life (46% vs. 77%, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Our results highlight important pre-HCT risk factors associated with increased PC needs posthematopoietic cell transplantation and benefits of PC involvement for older allo-HCT recipients at the end of life. Prospective studies should examine the optimal timing of PC consultation and its multidimensional benefits for older allo-HCT patients.
Objectives: This study aimed to reveal the features of older adults’ advance care planning (ACP) discussions by identifying psychosocial factors related to their discussions in Japan, where people value family-centered decision making.
Methods: A qualitative study using in-depth interviews was conducted with 39 participants (aged =65 years) recruited from the outpatient department of a community hospital in Fukushima, Japan. Data were analyzed using the grounded theory approach.
Results: Through experiences of family caregiving, participants became aware of their own feelings about the end of life. Equal relationship with family members was important for lowering the threshold for having discussions. Some participants and their families in the same generation reached agreements on ACP; however, they were willing to yield to children’s decision making despite these discussions.
Discussions: These findings provide insights into the psychosocial factors in relation to ACP discussions and support for the role of ACP discussions in the family-centered decision-making culture.
Background: Caregivers are decision stakeholders; yet, few interventions have been developed to help patients and caregivers collaborate on advance care planning (ACP).
Objective: To evaluate a theory-based ACP pilot intervention, Deciding Together, to improve decisional quality, readiness, collaboration, and concordance in ACP decisions for older adult home health (HH) patients and caregivers.
Design: A one-group, pre- and posttest study using matched questionnaires was conducted. The intervention consisted of a clinical vignette, theoretically guided conversation prompts, and a shared decision-making activity.
Setting/Subjects:N = 36 participants (n = 18 HH patients; n = 18 family and nonfamily caregivers) were purposively recruited from a HH agency to participate in the intervention at patients' homes.
Measurements: Demographic and baseline measures were collected for relationship quality, health status, and previous ACP engagement. Outcome measures included perceptions of collaboration, readiness for ACP, concordance in life-sustaining treatment preferences (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, antibiotics, artificial nutrition and hydration, and mechanical ventilation), and decisional conflict. Descriptive statistics, Cohen's coefficients, paired t tests, McNemar's tests, and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests (and effect size estimates, r = z/vN) were calculated using R-3.5.1 (p < 0.05). Single value imputation was used for missing values.
Results: While no significant differences were found for perceptions of collaboration, and readiness for ACP, patients (r = 0.38, p = 0.02) and caregivers (r = 0.38, p = 0.02) had reduced decisional conflict at posttest. Patients' and caregivers' agreement increased by 27.7% for an item assessing patients' preference for artificial nutrition and hydration (p = 0.03).
Conclusions: This study suggests that collaborative ACP decision making may improve decisional conflict for older adult HH patients and their caregivers.
The loss of a significant other often creates emotional distress for family members that can hamper the ability to meet everyday challenges and pursue wellness. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand the challenge of losing a significant other for older adult family members and the approaches identified as most helpful to promote their own well-being after this person dies. Story inquiry method guided the interview process with 15 older adult bereaved family members residing in a continuing care retirement community. Theory-guided content analysis was used for data analysis. Two themes described the challenges: uneasiness that permeates everyday living and precious memories and patterns of disconnect that breed discontent. Appreciating the rhythmic flow of everyday connecting and separating and embracing reality as situated in one’s lifelong journey are the themes that encompass the helpful approaches used by participants. This study provided insights about the benefits of living in this community such as social networking and a possible drawback such as the frequency of death among residents. Future research should continue to investigate social service resources that older adults find most helpful after a significant other dies and the use of reminiscence groups as a form of bereavement support.
Introduction: Existing literature on attitudes toward end-of-life care (EoLC) covers the general public but has little information on the frail elderly population. The aim of the current study is to investigate the preferences of Chinese frail elderly home residents with respect to EoLC by conducting cross-sectional surveys.
Methods and analysis: Surveys, including resident and family versions, were developed based on the existing literature and our pilot interviews. The targeted participants were 400 frail elderly home residents (aged = 65 years old) and 200 family caregivers. Purposive sampling will be used as each elderly home will help to recruit five to 15 elderly participants for the study. Descriptive analysis and modelling will be used to examine preferences on EoLC and related factors, as well as to compare the responses of elderly home residents with those of their family caregivers.
Ethics and dissemination: The cross-sectional survey has obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board. Confidentiality and safety issues will be carefully observed. The results of the study will be disseminated through international conferences, peer-reviewed academic journal publications, and a report in plain language to be shared with elderly residential homes.
Introduction: Frail older people are known to have low rates of advance care planning (ACP). Many frail patients prefer less aggressive treatment, but these preferences are often not known or respected. Frail patients often have multiple hospital admissions, potentially providing opportunities for ACP.
Objective: To systematically review the literature concerning ACP with frail older people in the acute hospital, with particular reference to: (1) Does ACP improve outcomes? (2) What are the views of patients, relatives and healthcare professionals regarding ACP? (3) Does ACP currently occur? (4) What are the facilitators and barriers to ACP?
Design: Systematic literature review and narrative synthesis. Electronic search of MEDLINE, CINAHL, ASSIA, PsycINFO and Embase databases from January 1990 to May 2019 inclusive. Studies in the acute setting of populations with a mean age > 75 years, not focused on a disease-specific terminal condition were included.
Results: 16 133 articles were retrieved, 14 met inclusion criteria. No studies used an objective measure of frailty. One randomised controlled trial (RCT) found that ACP improves outcomes for older patients. Although 74%–84% of capacitous older inpatients are receptive to ACP, rates of ACP are 0%–5%; the reasons for this discrepancy have been little studied. The nature of ACP in clinical practice is unknown thus the extent to which it reflects the RCT intervention cannot be assessed. The outcomes that are important to patients are poorly understood and family and physician experiences have not been explored.
Conclusions: A better understanding of this area could help to improve end-of-life care for frail older people.
Introduction: Poorer end-of-life (EOL) care for elderly cancer patients has been reported. We assessed the impact of age on 13 indicators for the quality of EOL care as well as adherence to 6 national quality indicators in gynaecological cancer patients.
Methods: Age-dependent differences in 13 palliative care quality indicators were studied in gynaecological cancer patients registered in the population-based Swedish Register of Palliative Care. Association between the patient’s age and each quality indicator was analyzed by logistic regression, adjusted for place of death where appropriate. Adherence to six national quality indicators determined by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare was estimated in all patients.
Results: We included 3940 patients with the following age distribution: 1.6% were 18–39 years of age, 12.3% 40–59 years, 37.2% 60–74 years, 28.9% 75–84 years and 20% were =85 years. Age-dependent differences in implementation rate were present for some of the 13 quality indicators. Compared to elderly cancer patients, younger patients were more likely to be cared for by a specialized palliative care service, more often informed about imminent death as well as assessed for pain. For most national quality indicators, the goal level was not met. Only for the ‘on demand prescription for pain’, the goal level was reached.
Conclusions: EOL care did not meet national quality indicators in this population-based data from Sweden, in particular in the elderly population. Elderly gynaecological cancer patients are at high risk of poorer EOL care without the involvement of specialized palliative care services. Palliative care services need to be implemented across all institutions of EOL care to ensure good and equal care.
Background: A large number of end-of-life decisions are made by a next-of-kin for a patient who has lost their decision-making capacity. This has given rise to investigations into how surrogates make these decisions. The experimental perspective has focused on examining how the decisions we make for others differ from our own, whereas the qualitative perspective has explored surrogate insights into making these decisions.
Methods: We conducted a mixed methods study to bring these two perspectives together. This is crucial to comparing decision outcomes to the decision process. We asked older adult partners to make end-of-life decisions for each other. They then took part in a semi-structured interview about their decision process. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: 24 participants took part in the study. Surrogates were more likely to take a life-saving treatment at the risk of a diminished quality of life for their partner than for themselves. This was consistent with their transcripts which showed that they wanted to give their partner a better chance of living. Although there was evidence of surrogate inaccuracy in the decision task, participants overwhelmingly reported their intention to make a decision which aligns with the substituted judgment standard. However, uncertainty about their wishes pushed them to consider other factors.
Conclusions: Taking a mixed methods approach allowed us to make novel comparisons between decision outcome and process. We found that the intentions of surrogates broadly align with the expectations of the substituted judgment standard and that previous discussions with their partner helps them to make a decision.
Purpose: Advance care planning is an important component of quality palliative care. In Asian countries, few randomized clinical trials have been reported. This pilot randomized-controlled trial examined the effects of brief nurse intervention with visual materials on the goal-of-care preference, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) preference, and designation of a health care proxy.
Methods: This randomized clinical trial was performed from January to February 2018 on elderly Japanese patients with chronic disease. The patients were randomly assigned to a control group (brief nurse intervention using verbal descriptions) or intervention group (using visual materials). The primary endpoint was goal-of-care preference, and secondary outcomes included the following: (1) CPR preference, (2) presence of a designated health care proxy, (3) knowledge of CPR, and (4) readiness for advance care planning. Outcome measures were obtained at baseline and just after completion of the intervention.
Results: A total of 220 patients were enrolled (117 in the intervention group and 103 in the control group). All patients completed post-intervention measurement. There was no significant difference between the groups in any of the outcome measures, while <5% of the participants wanted life-prolonging care as the goal of care at the baseline. Before/after comparisons indicated that, in both groups, the number of participants who designated a health care proxy significantly increased (29% to 65% vs. 22% to 52%, respectively; p < 0.001 each); and the knowledge and readiness scores significantly increased. Moreover, there was a significant increase in the number of patients who did not want CPR (55% to 67% with a terminal condition, p = 0.003; 67% to 80% with a bedridden condition, p < 0.001) in the intervention group.
Conclusions: Brief nurse intervention increased documentation of a patient-designated health care proxy and improved the knowledge of CPR and patient readiness. Visual materials might help patients to imagine the actual situation regarding CPR.
Objective: This study aimed to clarify the experiences and hidden needs of older patients with advanced cancer, their families and their physicians in palliative chemotherapy decision-making.
Materials and Methods: We conducted in-depth qualitative individual interviews with content analysis. Patients who were diagnosed as having advanced cancer, were aged =70 years (n = 15, median [range] = 77 [70–82] years) and had volunteered to receive palliative chemotherapy within the past 6 months were enrolled. Their families and physicians were also interviewed.
Results: The following four themes were identified: (i) physician’s awareness of paternalism; (ii) readiness for communication of serious news; (iii) spiritual care need assessment and (iv) support as a team. The patients and families expected physicians to demonstrate paternalism in their decision-making because they were unconfident about their self-determination capability. Although the physicians were aware of this expectation, they encountered difficulties in recommending treatment and communicating with older patients. The patients had spiritual pain since the time of diagnosis. Psychological issues were rarely discussed during decision-making and treatment, triggering feelings of isolation in the patients and their families.
Conclusion: Older patients and their families expected a paternalistic approach by the physicians for palliative chemotherapy decision-making. The physicians found it difficult to offer treatment options because of older patient diversity and limitations in evidence-based strategies. Therefore multidisciplinary approaches and evidence-based decision support aids are warranted. Because older patients and their families often have unexpressed psychological burdens including unmet spiritual needs, medical professionals should provide psychological care from the time of diagnosis.
Rationale: The care of critically ill patients often involves complex discussions surrounding prognosis, goals, and end-of-life decision making. Yet, physician and hospital practice patterns, rather than patient goals, remain a major determinant of the intensity of end-of-life care. For critically ill patients, palliative care may help promote treatments that are concordant with patients’ goals, while minimizing the use of invasive and costly intensive care unit resources that may not be consistent with those goals.
Objectives: To determine whether inpatient palliative care, delivered by specialist consultants or a primary medical team, is associated with reduced hospital length-of-stay and costs for older adults with septic shock at the end of life.
Methods: Retrospective cohort using the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) 2013-2014, examining patients aged = 65 years with septic shock who died during their hospitalization. The exposure of interest was inpatient palliative care encounter, including either generalist or specialist-delivered palliative care. Outcomes were hospital length-of-stay, total cost for the hospitalization, and daily hospital cost. Patient and hospital-level confounders were used to derive inverse probability of treatment weights and estimate the association between palliative care and outcomes in a generalized linear model.
Results: We studied 45,868 patients who died with a diagnosis of septic shock; 15,370 of these patients had a palliative care encounter. After inverse probability of treatment weighting, there were no appreciable differences between the population characteristics. Palliative care was associated with a shorter adjusted mean hospital length-of-stay (12.0 vs 13.1 days, difference -1.1 days, 95% CI -1.4 to -0.9; P <0.001), lower total hospital costs (69,700 vs 76,800 USD, difference -7,100 USD, 95% CI -8.5 to -5.2 thousand USD; P <0.001) and lower daily hospital cost (5,900 vs 6,200 USD, difference -310 USD per day, 95% CI -420 to -200 USD; P<0.001) when compared to no palliative care.
Conclusions: In a nationally representative sample of adults who died during a hospitalization with septic shock, receipt of palliative care was associated with shorter length-of-stay and lower total and daily hospital costs. This finding was robust to adjustment for patient and hospital-level confounders, though unmeasured confounders still could be impacting these findings.
Background: General practitioners’ (GPs) play a central role in facilitating end-of-life discussions with older patients nearing the end-of-life. However, prognostic uncertainty of time to death is one important barrier to initiation of these discussions.
Objective: To explore GPs’ perceptions of the feasibility and acceptability of a risk prediction checklist to identify older patients in their last 12 months of life and describe perceived barriers and facilitators for implementing end-of-life planning.
Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 GPs practising in metropolitan locations in New South Wales and Queensland between May and June 2019. Data were analysed thematically.
Results: Eight themes emerged: accessibility and implementation of the checklist, uncertainty around checklist’s accuracy and usefulness, time of the checklist, checklist as a potential prompt for end-of-life conversations, end-of-life conversations not an easy topic, end-of-life conversation requires time and effort, uncertainty in identifying end-of-life patients and limited community literacy on end-of-life. Most participants welcomed a risk prediction checklist in routine practice if assured of its accuracy in identifying which patients were nearing end-of-life.
Conclusions: Most participating GPs saw the value in risk assessment and end-of-life planning. Many emphasized the need for appropriate support, tools and funding for prognostic screening and end-of-life planning for this to become routine in general practice. Well validated risk prediction tools are needed to increase clinician confidence in identifying risk of death to support end-of-life care planning.
Background: Early identification of psychosocial distress is important to address the needs of vulnerable populations and influence symptom management. Older veterans diagnosed with life-limiting cancers are particularly vulnerable because they often have unmet needs, experiencing psychological or emotional problems and gaps in healthcare communication, which extends suffering. Lack of emotional support, ongoing physical pain, and unresolved symptom control can further increase distress among older veterans, contributing to complexity of decision-making for end of life (EOL) care.
Objective: We explored older veterans’ experiences and identification of psychosocial distress in cancer care to better understand how they describe distress while facing the end of life.
Methods: Guiding this study is a conceptual framework from psychosocial oncology with the multifactorial experience of distress indicated by NCCN guidelines for distress screening. We use a phenomenological approach to explore the experience of psychosocial distress among older veterans diagnosed with advanced cancers at risk for dying within a year. Inclusion criteria: Provider response of “no” to, “Would you be surprised if your patient died within a year?” and “yes”, to the question, “Have you talked with your patient about the severity of their illness as being life-limiting, terminal?”
Results: Five themes emerged: (1) the meaning of distress: “It’s hard to explain”; (2) severity of advanced cancer: “There’s no stage five”; (3) distressing thoughts about the possibility of dying: “Either way, it’s life limiting”; (4) coping: “Deal with it and hope for a better day”; and (5) personal factors: “I don’t want to be anything but a man who can handle adversity.” Findings suggest older veterans may have unique cancer experiences different from other populations.
Conclusion: Older veterans in this study exhibited distressing symptoms which demonstrate they are at risk for declining health and in need of support for their distress. Healthcare providers are urged to understand the complexity of distress to provide the best possible treatment for older veterans.
Objective: The aim of this study was to characterize nutritional status, body composition, oxidative stress, and inflammatory activity and to determine the possible associations between nutritional status and clinical variables in advanced cancer patients.
Method: This was a cross-sectional study of 46 elderly cancer patients under palliative care with a prognosis of 30 days or more. Nutritional status, food intake, anthropometry, body composition (deuterium oxide method), metabolic profile, inflammation damage (C-reactive protein), oxidative damage (8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine), and symptom intensity were evaluated.
Results: Among elderly cancer patients, 36.9% were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Systemic inflammation was detected, with a correlation between worse nutritional status and higher C-reactive protein levels (p < 0.01, r= -0.57), while lower lean mass (p < 0.01, r = 0.62) and higher fat mass percentages (p < 0.01, r = 0.62) correlated with higher levels of 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine. Furthermore, daily energy (n = 25; 57.4%) and protein intake (n = 24; 52.2%) were lower than recommended in more than half the patients. The most prevalent symptoms were anxiety, impairment of well-being, drowsiness, tiredness, and lack of appetite.
Conclusions: Despite preserved functionality, patients already had clinical and laboratory changes that, together with inadequate food intake, risk of malnutrition, systemic inflammation, and the presence of uncontrolled symptoms, alerted to the importance of an early and comprehensive palliative approach.