OBJECTIVES: to describe the experience of conducting workshops for teaching the subcutaneous fluid infusion therapy in palliative care patients.
METHODS: experience report based on four workshops with a workload of nine hours each, addressing the teaching, implementation of the technique, and management in the use of subcutaneous fluid infusion therapy in patients in palliative care. The host institution was a private hospital, which had two care units in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
RESULTS: we identified little knowledge about the theme. Due to the dynamics used, the workshops made it possible to qualify the participants to perform and manage the subcutaneous route in palliative care environments.
CONCLUSIONS: the workshops were an important means of training, qualification, and dissemination of nursing care in a palliative care environment. The resources used to enable the qualification in the execution and management of the presented technique.
Background: Palliative care has been widely implemented in clinical practice for patients with cancer but is not routinely provided to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Aim: The study aims were to compare palliative care services, medications, life-sustaining interventions, place of death, symptom burden and health-related quality of life among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer populations.
Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis (PROSPERO: CRD42019139425).
Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, CINAHL and PsycINFO were searched for studies comparing palliative care, symptom burden or health-related quality of life among chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer or populations with both conditions. Quality scores were assigned using the QualSyst tool.
Results: Nineteen studies were included. There was significant heterogeneity in study design and sample size. A random effects meta-analysis ( n = 3–7) determined that people with lung cancer had higher odds of receiving hospital (odds ratio: 9.95, 95% confidence interval: 6.37–15.55, p < 0.001) or home-based palliative care (8.79, 6.76–11.43, p < 0.001), opioids (4.76, 1.87–12.11, p = 0.001), sedatives (2.03, 1.78–2.32, p < 0.001) and dying at home (1.47, 1.14–1.89, p = 0.003) compared to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with lung cancer had lower odds of receiving invasive ventilation (0.26, 0.22–0.32, p < 0.001), non-invasive ventilation (0.63, 0.44–0.89, p = 0.009), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (0.29, 0.18–0.47, p < 0.001) or dying at a nursing home/long-term care facility (0.32, 0.16–0.64, p < 0.001) than people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Symptom burden and health-related quality of life were relatively similar between the two populations.
Conclusion: People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease receive less palliative measures at the end of life compared to people with lung cancer, despite a relatively similar symptom profile.
Objectives: This study aimed to identify gaps in palliative care (PC) provision across the National Cancer Grid (NCG) centres in India.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional validated web-based survey on 102 NCG cancer centres (Nov ’17 to April ’18). The survey questionnaire had seven sections collecting data relating to the capacity to provide cancer care and PC, drug availability for pain and symptom control, education, advocacy, and quality assurance activities for PC.
Results: Eighty-nine NCG centres responded for this study—72.5% of centres had doctors with generalist PC training, whereas 34.1% of centres had full-time PC physicians; 53.8% had nurses with 6 weeks of PC training; 68.1% of the centres have an outpatient PC and 66.3% have the facility to provide inpatient PC; 38.5% of centres offer home-based PC services; 44% of the centres make a hospice referral and 68.1% of the centres offer concurrent cancer therapy alongside PC. Among the centres, 84.3% have a licence to procure, store and dispense opioids, but only 77.5% have an uninterrupted supply of oral morphine for patients; 61.5% centres have no dedicated funds for PC, 23.1% centres have no support from hospital administration, staff shortage—69.2% have no social workers, 60.4% have no counsellors and 76.9% have no volunteers. Although end-of-life care is recognised, there is a lack of institutional policy. Very few centres take part in quality control measures.
Conclusions: The majority of the NCG centres have the facilities to provide PC but suffer from poor implementation of existing policies, funding and human resources.
Dexmedetomidine is a selective a2-adrenoreceptor agonist with a broad range of effects, including easily controllable sedation, analgesia and anxiolysis. Because of these favorable features, it has replaced traditional sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, and is becoming the first-line sedative for the patients in intensive care units. Terminally ill patients often need sedatives for symptom management, especially for dyspnoea. However, the use of dexmedetomidine in a palliative care setting has rarely been recognised to date. We experienced a patient nearing the end of life due to uncontrollable pulmonary haemorrhage on ventilator, whose dyspnoea was successfully managed by dexmedetomidine in addition to continuous intravenous infusion of oxycodone.
Context: Off-label and unlicensed use of drugs is a widespread practice in pediatric care due to the lack of specific efficacy and safety data and the absence of formulations adapted to the needs of these individuals. Pediatric patients with a life-limiting illness frequently receive drugs under these conditions, though no studies have established the prevalence of this practice.
Aim: to describe the prevalence, indications, and most common uses of off-label and unlicensed drugs in a pediatric palliative care unit.
Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional observational study carried out between January and October 2019.
Setting/participants: The study included all patients admitted to the pediatric palliative care unit for home hospitalization and with at least one prescribed drug treatment.
Results: eighty-five patients involving 1198 prescriptions were analyzed. A total of 39.6% were off-label and 12.9% were unlicensed. All received at least one off-label drug, with a median of 5 per patient (IQR = 3–7), and 81.2% received at least one unlicensed drug. A total of 36.1% of the prescriptions were considered off-label due to indication, 33.8% due to dosage, and 26.6% due to age. The main drugs used off-label were oral morphine, oral levetiracetam, inhaled albuterol, sublingual ondansetron, oral tizanidine, sublingual fentanyl, and oral diazepam. The main symptoms treated with off-label drugs were dyspnea, pain, and nausea/vomiting.
Conclusions: Over half of the prescriptions in this PPCU were off-label or unlicensed. Treatment indication was one of the main reasons for off-label use. Administration of compounded preparations was common in patients with a life-limiting illness.
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: Older adults with advanced lung cancer experience high symptom burden at end of life (EOL), yet hospice enrollment often happens late or not at all. Receipt of medications to manage symptoms in the outpatient setting, outside the Medicare hospice benefit, has not been described.
Objectives: We examined patterns of symptom management medication receipt at EOL for older adults who died of lung cancer.
Methods: This retrospective cohort used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results—Medicare database to identify decedents diagnosed with lung cancer at age 67 years and older between January 2008 and December 2013 who survived six months and greater after diagnosis. Using Medicare Part B and D claims, we identified monthly receipt of outpatient medications for symptomatic management of pain, emotional distress, fatigue, dyspnea, anorexia, and nausea/vomiting. Multivariable logistic regression estimated associations between medication receipt and patient demographic characteristics, comorbidity, and concurrent therapy.
Results: Of the 16,246 included patients, large proportions received medications for dyspnea (70.7%), pain (62.5%), and emotional distress (49.4%), with lower prevalence for other symptoms. Medication receipt increased from six months to one month before death. Women and dual Medicaid enrolled were more likely to receive medications for pain, emotional distress, dyspnea, and nausea/vomiting. Receipt of symptom management medications decreased with increasing age and racial/ethnical minorities.
Conclusion: Symptom management medication receipt was common and increasing toward EOL. Lower use by males, older adults, and nonwhites may reflect poor access or poor patient-provider communication. Further research is needed to understand these patterns and assess adequacy of symptom management in the outpatient setting.
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.
OBJECTIVES: The use of drugs beyond their marketing authorisation, that is, off-label use, is common practice in palliative care with over 70% of off-label use having little or no scientific support. The lack of evidence makes recommendations for off-label use essential, in order to increase the safety of drug therapy and thus patient safety. The aim of this study was to develop a guide for preparing and consenting drug-specific recommendations for off-label use in palliative care.
METHODS: Group Delphi Study with three rounds and a prior online survey to identify topics of dissent. Participants represented professional groups working in palliative care involved in direct patient care and/or drug management and various care settings. Furthermore, representatives of relevant professional associations, experts with academic, non-clinical background and experts with international expertise were invited.
RESULTS: 18/20 invited professionals participated in the prior online-survey. 15 experts participated in the Group Delphi process. Six domains, including identification of drugs, drug uses, assessment of evidence, formulation, consensus and updating of recommendations were generated and respective statements were included in the Group Delphi process. The consensus process resulted in 28 statements forming the guide for recommendations.
CONCLUSIONS: The resultant systematic approach for preparing and consenting drug-specific recommendations for off-label use will allow the development of recommendations with transparent and reproducible monographs. This will help to increase treatment quality and patient safety as well as security of decision-making in palliative care. The developed guide is part of a larger project aiming to provide therapy recommendations for areas that have little or no scientific evidence.
BACKGROUND: Patients in the last phase of their lives often use many medications. Physicians tend to lack awareness that reviewing the usefulness of medication at the end of patients' lives is important. The aim of this study is to gain insight into the perspectives of patients, informal caregivers, nurses and physicians on the role of nurses in medication management at the end of life.
METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients in the last phase of their lives, in hospitals, hospices and at home; and with their informal caregivers, nurses and physicians. Data were qualitatively analyzed using the constant comparative method.
RESULTS: Seventy-six interviews were conducted, with 17 patients, 12 informal caregivers, 15 nurses, 20 (trainee) medical specialists and 12 family physicians. Participants agreed that the role of the nurse in medication management includes: 1) informing, 2) supporting, 3) representing and 4) involving the patient, their informal caregivers and physicians in medication management. Nurses have a particular role in continuity of care and proximity to the patient. They are expected to contribute to a multidimensional assessment and approach, which is important for promoting patients' interest in medication management at the end of life.
CONCLUSIONS: We found that nurses can and should play an important role in medication management at the end of life by informing, supporting, representing and involving all relevant parties. Physicians should appreciate nurses' input to optimize medication management in patients at the end of life. Health care professionals should recognize the role the nurses can have in promoting patients' interest in medication management at the end of life. Nurses should be reinforced by education and training to take up this role.
BACKGROUND: The management of medicines towards the end of life can place increasing burdens and responsibilities on patients and families. This has received little attention yet it can be a source of great difficulty and distress patients and families. Dose administration aids can be useful for some patients but there is no evidence for their wide spread use or the implications for their use as patients become increasing unwell. The study aimed to explore how healthcare professionals describe the support they provide for patients to manage medications at home at end of life.
METHODS: Qualitative interview study with thematic analysis. Participants were a purposive sample of 40 community healthcare professionals (including GPs, pharmacists, and specialist palliative care and community nurses) from across two English counties.
RESULTS: Healthcare professionals reported a variety of ways in which they tried to support patients to take medications as prescribed. While the paper presents some solutions and strategies reported by professional respondents it was clear from both professional and patient/family caregiver accounts in the wider study that rather few professionals provided this kind of support. Standard solutions offered included: rationalising the number of medications; providing different formulations; explaining what medications were for and how best to take them. Dose administration aids were also regularly provided, and while useful for some, they posed a number of practical difficulties for palliative care. More challenging circumstances such as substance misuse and memory loss required more innovative strategies such as supporting ways to record medication taking; balancing restricted access to controlled drugs and appropriate pain management and supporting patient choice in medication use.
CONCLUSIONS: The burdens and responsibilities of managing medicines at home for patients approaching the end of life has not been widely recognised or understood. This paper considers some of the strategies reported by professionals in the study, and points to the great potential for a more widely proactive stance in supporting patients and family carers to understand and take their medicines effectively. By adopting tailored, and sometimes, 'outside the box' thinking professionals can identify immediate, simple solutions to the problems patients and families experience with managing medicines.
BACKGROUND: Cystic fibrosis is a life-limiting autosomal recessive genetic illness. A feeling of shortness of breath is common in cystic fibrosis, especially as the disease progresses. Reversing the underlying cause is the priority when treating breathlessness (dyspnoea), but when it is not feasible, palliation (easing) becomes the primary goal to improve an individual's quality of life. A range of drugs administered by various routes have been used, but no definite guidelines are available. A systematic review is needed to evaluate such treatments.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the efficacy and safety of drugs used to ease breathlessness in people with cystic fibrosis.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis Trials Register, compiled from electronic database searches and handsearching of journals and conference abstract books. Date of last search: 18 November 2019. We searched databases (clinicaltrials.gov, the ISRCTN registry, the Clinical Trials Registry India and WHO ICTRP) for ongoing trials. These searches were last run on 06 March 2020.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We planned to include randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials in people with cystic fibrosis (diagnosed by a positive sweat chloride test or genetic testing) who have breathlessness. We considered studies comparing any drugs used for easing breathlessness to another drug administered by any route (inhaled (nebulised), intravenous, oral, subcutaneous, transmucosal (including buccal, sublingual and intra-nasal) and transdermal).
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: The authors assessed the search results according to the pre-defined inclusion criteria.
MAIN RESULTS: The new searches in 2020 yielded two ongoing studies that were not relevant to the review question. Previous searches had found only one study (cross-over in design), which did not fulfil the inclusion criteria as no data were available from the first treatment period alone.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Due to the lack of available evidence, this review cannot provide any information for clinical practice. The authors call for specific research in this area after taking into account relevant ethical considerations. The research should focus on the efficacy and safety of the drugs with efficacy being measured in terms of improvement in quality of life, dyspnoea scores and hospital stay.
Section 2 of the 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines includes opioid analgesics formulations commonly used for the control of pain and respiratory distress, as well as sedative and anxiolytic substances such as midazolam and diazepam. These medicines, essential to palliative care, are regulated under the international drug control conventions overseen by United Nations (UN) specialized agencies and treaty bodies and under national drug control laws. Those national laws and regulations directly affect bedside availability of Internationally Controlled Essential Medicines (ICEMs). The complex interaction between national regulatory systems and global supply chains (now impacted by COVID-19 pandemic) directly affects bedside availability of ICEMs and patient care. Despite decades of global civil society advocacy in the UN system, ICEMs have remained chronically unavailable, inaccessible and unaffordable in Lower-and-Middle Income Countries, and there are recent reports of shortages in High Income Countries as well. The most prevalent symptoms in COVID-19 are breathlessness, cough, drowsiness, anxiety, agitation and delirium. Frequently used medicines include opioids such as morphine or fentanyl and midazolam, all of them listed as ICEMs. This paper describes the issues related to the lack of availability and limited access to ICEMs during the COVID-19 pandemic in both intensive and palliative care patients in countries of all income levels and makes recommendations for improving access.
Doctors, nurses, and family caregivers worldwide are facing tough decisions concerning the supply and administration of medications to manage symptoms when patients are dying from covid-19 or other conditions in the community or care homes. Proposed changes in practice aimed at ensuring adequate end-of-life symptom control need careful consideration alongside appropriate training and support.
Updated UK advice, including NICE rapid guidance on managing covid-19 symptoms in the community, reiterates the importance of prescribing medications in advance of need for pain, nausea and vomiting, agitation, and respiratory secretions. These drugs may be administered if needed by visiting doctors or nurses, as is already well established in some countries. However, this practice is being overhauled radically in response to the pandemic.
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.
Purpose: To determine the use of avoidable medications in end-of-life patients living at home when they were moved from the general practice setting to the palliative medicine physician (T1) and before death (T2).
Methods: This retrospective longitudinal study describes the prevalence of end-of-life patients cared for at home between April 2016 and December 2018 receiving preventive and symptomatic drug treatments. Socio-demographic data, diagnosis and drug treatments for each patient were collected in a web-based Case Report Form.
Results: The study sample comprised 1565 end-of-life patients with a median age (25–75 percentile) of 79.8 (72.5–85.3 years). All patients were treated with symptomatic drugs, and there were significantly fewer patients from T1 to T2 with at least one preventive medication at end of life (92.1% and, 60.8%, p < 0.0001). There was a significant variability between the palliative care physicians in the mean numbers of avoidable preventive medication (1.5–3.9 at T1 and 0.4–2.7 at T2, p = 0.06) prescribed.
Conclusion: More than half end-of-life patients living at home still receive avoidable medications. Drug prescription needs to be improved and palliative care setting could have an important role in reducing potentially inappropriate prescriptions. Emphasizing the positive aspects of stopping medicines, shared criteria with de-prescribing guidelines for potentially inappropriate medication in end-of-life patients and multidisciplinary discussion with involvement of patient and family caregivers could be useful to rationalize drug therapy.
Background: A substantial number of older adults die in residential aged care facilities, yet little is known about the characteristics of and how best to optimise medication use in the last year of life.
Aim: The aim of this review was to map characteristics of medication use in aged care residents during the last year of life in order to examine key concepts related to medication safety and draw implications for further research and service provision.
Design: A scoping review following Arskey and O’Malley’s framework was conducted using a targeted keyword search, followed by assessments of eligibility based on title and content of abstracts and full papers. Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, the scoping review protocol was prospectively registered to the Open Science Framework on 27 November 2018.
Data Sources: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL and Cochrane databases to identify peer-reviewed studies published between 1937 and 2018, written in English and looking at medication use in individuals living in aged care facilities within their last year of life.
Results: A total of 30 papers were reviewed. Five key overarching themes were derived from the analysis process: (1) access to medicines at the end of life, (2) categorisation and classes: medicines and populations, (3) polypharmacy and total medication numbers, (4) use of symptomatic versus preventive medications and (5) ‘inappropriate’ medications.
Conclusion: Number of prescriptions or blunt categorisations of medications to assess their appropriateness are unlikely to be sufficient to promote well-being and medication safety for older people in residential aged care in the final stages of life.
The aim of this study was to compare the symptomatology, palliative care outcomes, therapeutic procedures, diagnostic tests, and pharmacological treatments for people with dementia (PWD) and without dementia (PW/OD) admitted to Spanish nursing homes.
DESIGN: This was a cross-sectional study which is part of a long-term prospective follow-up of elderly people performed in nursing homes to measure end-of-life care processes.
PARTICIPANTS: 107 nursing home patients with advanced or terminal chronic diseases were selected according to the criteria of the Palliative Care Spanish Society.
SETTING: Two trained nurses from each nursing home were responsible for participant selection and data collection. They must have treated the residents and had a minimum seniority of 6 months in the nursing home.
MEASUREMENTS: Sociodemographic data; Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale; Palliative Care Outcome Scale; and prevalence of diagnostic tests, pharmacological treatments, and therapeutic procedures were evaluated.
RESULTS: Pain, fatigue, and nausea were found to be significantly higher in the nondementia group and insomnia, poor appetite, and drowsiness were significantly higher in the dementia group. Patient anxiety, support, feeling that life was worth living, self-worth, and practical matters management were higher in the nondementia group. Regarding drugs, use of corticoids was higher in the nondementia group, while use of anxiolytics was higher in the dementia group. Diagnostic procedures such as urine analysis and X-ray were higher in the dementia group.
CONCLUSIONS: Differences in symptom perception, diagnostic tests, and pharmacological procedures were found between patients with and without dementia. Specific diagnostic tools need to be developed for patients with dementia.
Background: For most people, the last 12 months of life are spent living in the community, with the support of family and friends for a number of caregiving functions. Previous research has found that managing medicines is challenging for caregivers. Currently there is little information describing which caregivers may struggle with tasks associated with managing a loved one's medicines.
Aim: The aim of this study was to identify factors that flag caregivers who are likely to experience problems when managing someone else's medications.
Setting/Participants: The annual South Australian Health Omnibus Survey provides a face-to-face, cross-sectional, whole-of-population view of health care. Structured interviews, including questions covering palliative care and end-of-life care, were conducted with 14,625 residents in their own homes.
Results: Of the 1068 respondents who had provided care for someone who died of a terminal illness in the last five years, 7.4% identified that additional support with medicine management would have been beneficial. In addition, three factors were predictive of the need for additional support in managing medicines: aged <65 years; lower household income; and living in a metropolitan region.
Conclusion: The findings of this study provide insights to inform the development of palliative care service models to support informal caregivers in the management of medications for people with a life-limiting illness.