OBJECTIVE: Communication and patient-centred care are important determinants for timely initiation of palliative care. Therefore, we aimed to understand and explain the behaviour "starting a conversation about palliative care with a professional carer" from the perspective of people with incurable cancer.
METHODS: A qualitative study using semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 25 people with incurable cancer: 13 not (yet) receiving palliative care and 12 receiving palliative care; 4 started the conversation themselves. Determinants related to the defined behaviour were matched with concepts in existing behavioural theories.
RESULTS: Both positive and negative stances towards starting a conversation about palliative care with a professional carer were found. Influencing behavioural factors were identified, such as knowledge (e.g. about palliative care), attitude (e.g. association of palliative care with quality of life) and social influence (e.g. relationship with the professional carer). We modelled the determinants into a behavioural model.
CONCLUSION: The behavioural model developed helps to explain why people with incurable cancer do or do not start a conversation about palliative care with their professional carer. By targeting the modifiable determinants of the model, promising interventions can be developed to help patients taken the initiative in communication about palliative care with a professional carer.
Background: There is a growing emphasis on the importance of availability of specialist palliative care for people living with dementia. However, for people imminently dying with dementia, we still have little knowledge about their palliative care needs and utilization of different specialist services.
Objectives: To (i) assess palliative care needs and other clinical and social characteristics of people imminently dying with dementia on their last admission in the context of community and inpatient palliative care services before death; (ii) compare care needs between patients requiring community-based and inpatient services; (iii) determine how and whether such care needs affect utilization of different palliative care services.
Design: Observational study using data from the Australian Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration.
Settings: Specialist palliative care services across Australia registered in the Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration.
Participants: A total of 3361 people who required specialist palliative care principally for dementia (including Alzheimer's disease and other dementias), and whose death occurred between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2018.
Methods: Five validated clinical instruments were used to collect point-of-care outcomes on each individual's function (Resource Utilisation Groups - Activities of Daily Living & Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Status), symptom distress (Symptoms Assessment Scale & Palliative Care Problem Severity Score) and other clinical characteristics (Palliative Care Phases). We fitted multivariate logistic regression models to examine the association between these clinical outcomes and utilization of different specialist palliative care services.
Results: The majority of people imminently dying with dementia had absent or mild levels of symptom distress but experienced high levels of functional decline and needed substantial assistance with basic tasks of daily living in their last days of life. Large disparities in symptoms distress and functional decline between inpatient and community groups were not observed although differences in assessment scores were often statistically significant. Poor functional outcomes (odds ratio = 1.77, 95% confidence interval: 1.24–2.52) and “non-stable” palliative care phases (odds ratio =24.51, 95% confidence interval: 12.03–49.96) were positively associated with use of inpatient versus community palliative care, whereas there was no clear association between the majority of symptoms and use of different care services.
Conclusions: The majority of people imminently dying with dementia could potentially benefit from greater access to supportive services in the community. Development of a dementia-specific palliative care pathway is needed to promote needs-based palliative care delivery models.
Context: Nonpharmacological approaches are effective strategies for difficult to palliate breathlessness. Although acupuncture is effective for dyspnea in early-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), little is known about its effects in patients with advanced (non)malignant diseases.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to identify and examine the evidence of acupuncture on breathlessness in advanced malignant and nonmalignant diseases.
Methods: Systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials of acupuncture and acupressure searched in five databases. Included were adult participants with at least 25% having advanced diseases such as cancer or COPD with severe breathlessness. Primary outcome was severity of dyspnea on Visual Analogue Scale or Borg Scale. Secondary outcomes included quality of life, function, and acceptability. Data were pooled using a random effects model of standardized mean differences.
Results: Twelve studies with 597 patients (347 COPD, 190 advanced cancer) were included. For breathlessness severity, significant differences were obtained in a meta-analysis (10 studies with 480 patients; standardized mean difference (SMD) = -1.77 [95% CI -3.05, -0.49; P = 0.007; I2 = 90%]) and in a subgroup analysis of using sham acupuncture control groups and a treatment duration of at least three weeks (6 studies with 302 patients; SMD = -2.53 [95% CI -4.07, -0.99; P = 0.001; I2 = 91%]). Exercise tolerance (6-minute walk test) improved significantly in the acupuncture group (6 studies with 287 patients; SMD = 0.93 [95% CI 0.27, 1.59; P = 0.006; I2 = 85%]). In four of six studies, quality of life improved in the acupuncture group.
Conclusion: Acupuncture improved breathlessness severity in patients with advanced diseases. The methodological heterogeneity, low power, and potential morphine-sparing effects of acupuncture as add-on should be further addressed in future trials.
Context: Uremic pruritus (UP) affects up to half of all patients with kidney disease and has been independently associated with poor patient outcomes. UP is a challenging symptom for clinicians to manage as there are no validated guidelines for its treatment.
Objectives: The study aimed to develop and validate an algorithm and patient information toolkit for the treatment of UP in patients with kidney disease.
Methods: The study involved a literature search and development of an initial draft algorithm, followed by content and face validation of this algorithm. Validation entailed three rounds of interviews with six nephrology clinicians per round. Participants assessed the relevance of each component of the algorithm and then rated a series of statements on a scale of 1-5 to assess face validity of the algorithm. After each round, the content validity index (CVI) of each algorithm component was calculated, and the algorithm was revised by the study team in response to findings. This process was followed by a second study that developed and validated a patient information pamphlet and video.
Results: Algorithm validation participants were affiliated with three institutions and included seven physicians, four registered nurses, three nurse practitioners, three pharmacists, and a dietician. The average CVI of the algorithm components across all three rounds was 0.89, with 0.80 commonly cited as the lower acceptable limit for content validation. More than 78% of participants rated each face validity statement as “Agree” or “Strongly Agree”. For the patient information tools, five clinicians and 15 patients were included in validation. The average CVI was 1.00 for both tools, and the average face validity was 92%.
Conclusion: A treatment algorithm and patient information toolkit for managing UP in patients with kidney disease were developed and validated through expert review. Further research will be conducted on implementation of the treatment algorithm and evaluating patient-reported outcomes.
Context: Patients with advanced cancer face a life-limiting condition that brings a high symptom burden that often includes pain, fatigue, and psychological distress. Psychosocial interventions have promise for managing symptoms but need additional tailoring for these patients' specific needs. Patients with advanced cancer in the community also face persistent barriers—availability of interventions in community clinics as well as financial and illness-related factors—to accessing psychosocial interventions.
Objectives: The aim of the present study was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of telephone implementation of Engage, a novel brief combined Coping Skills Training and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy protocol, for reducing symptoms and increasing quality of life in community patients with advanced cancer.
Methods: Adult patients with advanced cancer receiving care in the community received Engage, four 60-minute manualized telephone sessions delivered by a trained psychotherapist and completed pretreatment and post-treatment assessments.
Results: Engage was feasible, achieving 100% accrual (N = 24) of a heterogeneous sample of patients with advanced cancer, with good retention (88% completed). Acceptability was demonstrated via satisfaction (mean 29 of 32; SD 2), engagement (95% attendance), and use of skills. Secondary analyses pointed to reductions in pain interference, fatigue, psychological distress, and improvements in psychological acceptance and engagement in value-guided activity after treatment.
Conclusion: Engage, our brief novel combined Coping Skills and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy intervention, demonstrated initial feasibility and acceptability when delivered over the telephone and increased access for community clinic patients with advanced cancer. Future research will assess the comparative efficacy of Engage in larger randomized trials.
All medical care providers are legally and ethically bound to respect their patients' wishes. However, as patients lose decision-making capacity and approach end of life, their families or surrogates, who are confronted with grief, fear, self-doubt, and/or uncertainty, may ask physicians to provide treatment that contradicts the patients' previously stated wishes. Our work discusses the legal and ethical issues surrounding such requests and provides guidance for clinicians to ethically and compassionately respond—without compromising their professional and moral obligations to their patients.
Context: Although it is well known that patients with advanced pancreatic cancer (PC) experience significant symptom burden, few strategies for effective symptom intervention are available for them.
Objectives: To investigate the efficacy of minocycline, an anti-inflammatory agent, for symptom reduction in patients with advanced PC.
Methods: We conducted Phase II, randomized, and placebo-controlled trial to obtain preliminary estimates of the effects on symptom reduction with 100 mg of minocycline or placebo given twice a day. Eligible patients had diagnosed advanced PC and were scheduled for standard chemotherapy. Patient-reported symptoms were measured weekly during the eight-week trial using the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI) module in patients with gastrointestinal cancer. The primary outcome measure was the area under the curve values of the five most severe symptoms in the two arms.
Results: Of the 44 patients recruited, 31 (71%) were evaluable for the primary efficacy analysis, with 18 received minocycline and 13 placebo. Fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite, and drowsiness were the most severe symptoms reported by both groups. No significant differences in area under the curve values over time between the study arms were found for the composite MDASI score or single-item scores of the five most severe MDASI items. No treatment-related deaths were reported, and no Grade 3–4 toxicities were observed.
Conclusion: Minocycline is safe for use in patients receiving treatment for PC. There is no observed symptom reduction with minocycline on the major symptom burden associated with advanced PC compared with placebo. Attrition because of rapid disease progression impacted the study significantly.
Context: Clinicians often worry that patients' recognition of the terminal nature of their illness may impair psychological well-being.
Objectives: To determine if such recognition was associated with decrements to psychological well-being that persisted over time.
Methods: About 87 patients with advanced cancer, with an oncologist-expected life expectancy of less than six months, were assessed before and after an oncology visit to discuss cancer restaging scan results and again at follow-up (median time between assessments, approximately six weeks). Prognostic understanding (PU) was assessed at previsit and postvisit, and a change score was computed. Psychological well-being was assessed at pre, post, and follow-up, and two change scores were computed (post minus pre; follow-up minus post).
Results: Changes toward more accurate PU was associated with a corresponding initial decline in psychological well-being (r = -0.33; P < 0.01) but thereafter was associated with subsequent improvements (r = 0.40; P < 0.001). This pattern remained controlling for potential confounds. Patients showed different patterns of psychological well-being change (F = 3.07, P = 0.05; F = 6.54, P < 0.01): among patients with improved PU accuracy, well-being initially decreased but subsequently recovered; by contrast, among patients with stable PU accuracy, well-being remained relatively unchanged, and among patients with decrements in PU accuracy, well-being initially improved but subsequently declined.
Conclusion: Improved PU may be associated with initial decrements in psychological well-being, followed by patients rebounding to baseline levels. Concerns about lasting psychological harm may not need to be a deterrent to having prognostic discussions with patients.
Context: Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis accompanied by significant emotional distress, especially for children with advanced disease. However, the content and processes of discussing emotion in advanced pediatric cancer remain unknown.
Objectives: To describe the initiation, response, and content of emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer.
Methods: We audiorecorded 35 outpatient consultations between oncologists and families of children whose cancer recently progressed. We coded conversations based on Verona Coding Definitions of Emotional Sequences.
Results: About 91% of conversations contained emotional cues, and 40% contained explicit emotional concerns. Parents and clinicians equally initiated cues (parents: 48%, 183 of 385; clinicians: 49%) and concerns (parents: 51%; clinicians: 49%). Children initiated 3% of cues and no explicit concerns. Emotional content was most commonly related to physical aspects of cancer and/or treatment (28% of cues and/or concerns, present in 80% of conversations) and prognosis (27% of cues and/or concerns, present in 60% of conversations). Clinicians mostly responded to emotional cues and concerns implicitly, without specifically naming the emotion (85%). Back channeling (using minimal prompts or words that encourage further disclosure, e.g., uh-huh) was the most common implicit response that provided space for emotional disclosure (32% of all responses). Information advice was the most common implicit response that reduced space for further emotional disclosure (28%).
Conclusion: Emotional communication in advanced pediatric cancer appears to be a subtle process where parents offer hints and clinicians respond with non-emotion-laden statements. Also, children were seldom engaged in emotional conversations. Clinicians should aim to create an environment that allows families to express emotional distress if and/or when ready.
Context: Clinicians deciding whether to refer a patient or family to specialty palliative care report facing high levels of uncertainty. Most research on medical uncertainty has focused on prognostic uncertainty. As part of a pediatric palliative referral intervention for oncology teams we explored how uncertainty might influence palliative care referrals.
Objectives: To describe distinct meanings of the term “uncertainty” that emerged during the qualitative evaluation of the development and implementation of an intervention to help oncologists overcome barriers to palliative care referrals.
Methods: We conducted a phenomenological qualitative analysis of “uncertainty” as experienced and described by interdisciplinary pediatric oncology team members in discussions, group activities and semistructured interviews regarding the introduction of palliative care.
Results: We found that clinicians caring for patients with advanced cancer confront seven broad categories of uncertainty: prognostic, informational, individual, communication, relational, collegial, and inter-institutional. Each of these kinds of uncertainty can contribute to delays in referring patients to palliative care.
Conclusion: Various types of uncertainty arise in the care of pediatric patients with advanced cancer. To manage these forms of uncertainty, providers need to develop strategies and techniques to handle professionally challenging situations, communicate bad news, manage difficult interactions with families and colleagues, and collaborate with other organizations.
Context: Patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing dialysis experience multiple concurrent symptoms. These symptoms cluster together and have negative impacts on patient outcomes. However, information on changes in symptom clusters over time is limited.
Objectives: This longitudinal study examined the stability of symptom clusters and their impacts on health-related quality of life and functional status over a period of one year.
Methods: Eligibility criteria were patients diagnosed with end-stage renal disease; had received dialysis consecutively for at least three months; and had given written informed consent. Dialysis Symptom Index, Kidney Disease Quality of Life 36, and Karnofsky Performance Status Scale were used to evaluate the impacts of symptom clusters and outcomes. Exploratory factor analyses and multiple regression analyses were used to determine symptom clusters and their associations with patient outcomes.
Results: Among the 354 recruited patients, 271 completed the 12-month assessment. Four symptom clusters were identified across the three assessments, namely, uremic, gastrointestinal, skin, and emotional. Within each cluster, the specific symptoms were varied. The uremic symptom cluster accounted for the largest amount of variability. Across the three assessments, a higher uremic cluster factor score was associated with poorer physical well-being, whereas a higher emotional cluster factor score was consistently associated with poorer mental well-being.
Conclusion: Symptoms in patients on dialysis clustered in relatively stable patterns. The four symptom clusters identified had consistent negative effects on various aspects of patients' well-being. Our findings suggest the need for ongoing symptom assessment and early recognition of symptoms that may contribute to adverse patient outcomes.
Background: Advance directives towards end of life decisions are seldom used among Arabs.
Aims: This study aimed at investigating advance care preferences among a sample of Arab patients.
Method: This cross-sectional study was undertaken over the period March 2012-March 2013 on a sample of 300 patients with chronic illness in King Fahad National Guard Hospital, Riyadh, a major tertiary care hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Results: Mean age of patients in the study was 48.7 years (standard deviation 16.4). There were 104 patients on haemodialysis, 73 with advanced malignancy, 81 with chronic liver disease and 35 with chronic respiratory disease. More than 80% of the respondents felt that the physician should make the decision about cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Over 60% wished to remain at home when their condition deteriorated to impending death. There were no significant correlations between the patients' end of life decision preferences and religiosity, quality of life, disease duration, or other demographic characteristics.
Conclusion: Despite a significant lack of knowledge among our participants regarding resuscitation, a majority of patients with chronic illness were willing to discuss the options and were capable of making advance directive plans regarding their health status.
Objectives: Common terminal phase symptoms include pain, dyspnoea, anxiety, terminal restlessness, nausea and noisy breathing. This study identified the proportion of community pharmacies across two Australian states stocking medicines useful in managing terminal phase symptoms, while exploring factors considered predictive of pharmacies carrying these medicines.
Methods: Community pharmacies from across the states of New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia (SA) were concurrently mailed a survey. Respondents were asked questions relating to medicines stocked, expiry date of stock, awareness of people with palliative care needs and demographic characteristics of the pharmacy. A ‘prepared pharmacy’ was defined as a pharmacy that held medicines useful in the management of terminal phase symptoms.
Results: The proportion of prepared pharmacies across NSW and SA was 21.9%. Multiple logistic regression demonstrated eight predictors of prepared pharmacies, of which awareness of people with palliative needs using their service was the strongest.
Conclusions: One-fifth of community pharmacies carry formulations useful in managing terminal phase symptoms. The main factor associated with this was awareness of people with palliative needs using the pharmacy. Strategies that engage with pharmacists in anticipation of the terminal phase are critical, supporting people with palliative needs to remain at home to die, if desired.
Background: It remains unclear whether the end-of-life (EOL) treatment/environment impacts on survival after anticancer treatment in terminally ill women with ovarian carcinoma (OC).
Objective: The aim of this investigation was to clarify how long those women actually survived after their last anticancer treatments and their hallmarks.
Setting, Design, and Measurements: Between 2003 and 2011, 79 terminally ill women with OC were retrospectively analyzed as a single institutional study. Postcancer treatment survival (PCS), defined as the duration between the last date of the abovementioned “cancer treatment” and that of death from any cause, was analyzed on stratification by type of supportive care or where patients spend their EOL. Inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW)—adjusted Kaplan–Meier and Cox regression analyses were employed to compare PCS between the two groups.
Results: The median PCS of patients was 10.8 weeks. In the multivariable analysis, the performance status and EOL place retained their significance as independent prognostic factors of poorer PCS (performance status [2–3/0–1]: hazard ratio [HR] = 3.279 [95% confidence interval; CI 1.967–5.586; p < 0.0001], EOL place [hospital/home hospice]: HR = 0.574 [95% CI 0.355–0.913; p = 0.0188]). In the IPTW-adjusted cohort, the median PCS rates were 15.0 and 9.7 weeks in patients of home/hospice and hospital groups, respectively (p = 0.04). Also in the IPTW cohort, the EOL place retained its significance (IPTW-adjusted: HR [95% CI]: 1.548 [1.009–2.374], p = 0.045, multivariable adjusted with IPTW: HR [95% CI]: 1.670 [1.077–2.588], p = 0.022).
Conclusion: Our current data may be hypothesis generating; it is possible that the EOL environment is a crucial prognostic factor for survival after anticancer treatment.
La souffrance est une entité universelle, multidimensionnelle, mais aussi unique et personnelle, paradoxalement sous-diagnostiquée, alors qu’elle est omniprésente dans notre pratique en milieu hospitalier. Le but de cet article est de proposer au lecteur quelques pistes pour l’exploration et l’identification de la souffrance des proches de patients en situation palliative, et surtout quelques outils d’accompagnement et de soutien.
L'auteure, psychologue hospitalière, donne des conseils pour permettre à chacun de trouver sa place d'aidant auprès d'un malade. De l'entrée en soins palliatifs à la phase terminale, elle répond à l'ensemble des problématiques émotionnelles et relationnelles et propose des outils de dialogue pour faire le lien avec les professionnels de santé.
Pilou, un petit oiseau, vit une vie heureuse dans la ferme, entre ses parents et surtout Lisette, la star de la basse-cour ! Mais voilà, un jour, Lisette tombe malade et c'est toutes les petites habitudes du quotidien qui sont modifiées. C'est que la maladie de Lisette est "trop forte", le docteur ne peut plus la guérir. Face au chagrin de ses proches, Pilou se pose des questions sur la maladie et la mort. Heureusement, le médecin aide Lisette à ne pas souffrir et toute la basse-cour est là pour accompagner ses derniers jours. C'est un premier deuil pour Pilou, qui apprendra alors à se souvenir des bons moments pour emporter avec lui "la bonne humeur de Lisette".
BACKGROUND: Depressive disorders are common among cancer patients. Ketamine can quickly relieve depression, and its subcutaneous administration appears to be as effective as and probably safer than its standard intravenous administration. Herein, we report a case verifying the antidepressant effect of a subcutaneous esketamine formulation.
CASE PRESENTATION: A 65-year-old male with metastatic abdominal tumor reported sadness, weight loss, fatigue, hopelessness, insomnia, inattention, and reduced motivation. His scores on the visual analogical scale for pain and Montgomery-Asberg depression rating scale were 8/10 and 30/60, respectively.
POSSIBLE COURSES OF ACTION: Monoaminergic antidepressants are effective, but their response is slow for end-of-life care.
FORMULATION OF A PLAN: Esketamine was preferred because it possibly contributes to pain relief. It can repeatedly be infused intravenously, but was subcutaneously administered twice a week for safety reasons.
OUTCOME: The patient showed continuous mood improvement, achieving depression remission on day 7. Pain relief was observed but without stability. His vital signs remained stable, and he remained calm, without major complaints.
LESSONS FROM THE CASE: Repeated subcutaneous esketamine injections are possibly safe and effective in pain and depression relief in palliative care cancer patients.
VIEW ON RESEARCH PROBLEMS, OBJECTIVES, OR QUESTIONS GENERATED BY THE CASE: Placebo-controlled studies with similar cases are needed to establish efficacy and safety.
BACKGROUND: High incidence of treatable oral conditions has been reported among palliative patients. However, a large proportion of palliative patients lose their ability to communicate their sufferings. Therefore, it may lead to under-reporting of oral conditions among these patients. This review systematically synthesized the published evidence on the presence of oral conditions among palliative patients, the impact, management, and challenges in treating these conditions.
METHODS: An integrative review was undertaken with defined search strategy from five databases and manual search through key journals and reference list. Studies which focused on oral conditions of palliative patients and published between years 2000 to 2017 were included.
RESULTS: Xerostomia, oral candidiasis and dysphagia were the three most common oral conditions among palliative patients, followed by mucositis, orofacial pain, taste change and ulceration. We also found social and functional impact of having certain oral conditions among these patients. In terms of management, complementary therapies such as acupuncture has been used but not well explored. The lack of knowledge among healthcare providers also posed as a challenge in treating oral conditions among palliative patients.
CONCLUSIONS: This review is first in its kind to systematically synthesize the published evidence regarding the impact, management and challenges in managing oral conditions among palliative patients. Although there is still lack of study investigating palliative oral care among specific group of patients such as patients with dementia, geriatric or pediatric advanced cancer patients, this review has however provided baseline knowledge that may guide health care professionals in palliative settings.
The scholarship of euthanasia indicates that in most cases, to date, non-voluntary euthanasia has been studied where euthanasia is legalized. Findings of these studies demonstrate the 'slippery slope' and reveal that non-voluntary euthanasia is pervasive in these countries. The research is aimed at answering two questions: (1) What are the common death hastening methods? (2) Is the acceptance of active non-voluntary euthanasia related to the legal status of euthanasia? A qualitative study was conducted in ICUs with 15 nurses. All of the interviewees refused to take part in the death hastening cases and did not obey any doctor's instruction that could hasten or cause death. Therefore, doctors who conducted NVE did it by themselves. The present study provides evidence of the phenomenon of illegal non-voluntary euthanasia as a routine practice by physicians in palliative care units in Israel. Interviews with 15 nurses employed in these units shed light on the means and methods used by these doctors to hasten terminal patients' death. We conclude that Nurses in various end-of-life care units persist in preserving their professional integrity and refuse to obey doctors' instructions for non-voluntary euthanasia. The slippery slope argument has been refuted in this context.