How are non-numerical prognostic statements interpreted and are they subject to positive bias?

Frank, clear communication with family members of terminally ill or incapacitated patients has important implications for well-being, satisfaction with care and sound decision-making | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

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Objectives: Numerical prognostic statements, particularly more negative ones, have been found to be interpreted in a positively biased manner. Less precise non-numerical statements, preferred by physicians, and particularly statements using threatening terms (dying vs surviving) may be even more subject to such biases.

Methods: Participants (N=200) read non-numerical prognostic statements framed in terms of dying or surviving and indicated their interpretation of likelihood of survival.

Results: Even the most extreme statements were not interpreted to indicate 100% likelihood of surviving or dying, (eg, they will definitely survive, 92.77%). The poorness of prognoses was associated with more optimistically biased interpretations but this was not, however, affected by the wording of the prognoses in terms of dying versus surviving.

Conclusions: The findings illuminate the ways in which commonly used non-numeric language may be understood in numeric terms during prognostic discussions and provide further evidence of recipients’ propensity for positive bias.

Full reference: Moyer, A. et al. (2017) How are non-numerical prognostic statements interpreted and are they subject to positive bias? 

Nurses’ experiences of pain management for people with advanced dementia approaching the end of life

Pain management in end-stage dementia is a fundamental aspect of end-of-life care; however, it is unclear what challenges and facilitators nurses experience in practice, whether these differ across care settings, and whether training needs to be tailored to the context of care | Journal of Clinical Nursing

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Aims and objectives: To explore hospice, acute care and nursing home nurses’ experiences of pain management for people with advanced dementia in the final month of life. To identify the challenges, facilitators and practice areas requiring further support.

 

Conclusions: Achieving pain management in practice was highly challenging. A number of barriers were identified; however, the manner and extent to which these impacted on nurses differed across hospice, nursing home and acute care settings. Needs-based training to support and promote practice development in pain management in end-stage dementia is required.

Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses considered pain management fundamental to end-of-life care provision; however, nurses working in acute care and nursing home settings may be undersupported and under-resourced to adequately manage pain in people dying with advanced dementia. Nurse-to-nurse mentoring and ongoing needs-assessed interactive case-based learning could help promote practice development in this area. Nurses require continuing professional development in pharmacology.

Full reference: De Witt Jansen, B. et al. Nurses’ experiences of pain management for people with advanced dementia approaching the end of life: a qualitative study. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 26,(9-10) pp. 1234–1244

Critical Care Nurses Suggestions to Improve End-of-Life Care Obstacles

Critical-care nurses (CCNs) provide end-of-life (EOL) care on a daily basis as 1 in 5 patients dies while in intensive care units. Critical-care nurses overcome many obstacles to perform quality EOL care for dying patients | Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing

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Objectives: The purposes of this study were to collect CCNs’ current suggestions for improving EOL care and determine if EOL care obstacles have changed by comparing results to data gathered in 1998.

Methods: A 72-item questionnaire regarding EOL care perceptions was mailed to a national, geographically dispersed, random sample of 2000 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. One of 3 qualitative questions asked CCNs for suggestions to improve EOL care. Comparative obstacle size (quantitative) data were previously published.

Results: Of the 509 returned questionnaires, 322 (63.3%) had 385 written suggestions for improving EOL care. Major themes identified were ensuring characteristics of a good death, improving physician communication with patients and families, adjusting nurse-to-patient ratios to 1:1, recognizing and avoiding futile care, increasing EOL education, physicians who are present and “on the same page,” not allowing families to override patients’ wishes, and the need for more support staff. When compared with data gathered 17 years previously, major themes remained the same but in a few cases changed in order and possible causation.

Conclusion: Critical-care nurses’ suggestions were similar to those recommendations from 17 years ago. Although the order of importance changed minimally, the number of similar themes indicated that obstacles to providing EOL care to dying intensive care unit patients continue to exist over time.

Full reference: Beckstrand, R.L. et al. (2017) Critical Care Nurses Suggestions to Improve End-of-Life Care Obstacles: Minimal Change Over 17 Years. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(4) pp. 264–270

End of life care in a care home

About a fifth of all people who die in any one year in England die in a care home. This means that training for all staff in end of life care planning, and for some in palliative care is a priority.

Most care home residents are over 85 years old, with an average life expectancy of less than two and a half years. This means that caring for people approaching the end of their lives must be a large part of what care homes, with or without specialist nursing care, must provide.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence has produced, End of life care in a care home which includes a Checklist for owners and managers.

In addition, My Home Life has developed a step-by-step guide to good practice in end-of-life-care

Passed away, kicked the bucket, pushing up daisies – the many ways we don’t talk about death

Improving hospital-based end of life care processes and outcomes

A systematic review was undertaken to examine the quantity and quality of data-based research aimed at improving the (a) processes and (b) outcomes associated with delivering end-of-life care in hospital settings | BMC Palliative Care

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A total of 416 papers met eligibility criteria. The number increased by 13% each year (p < 0.001). Most studies were descriptive (n = 351, 85%), with fewer measurement (n = 17) and intervention studies (n = 48; 10%). Only 18 intervention studies (4%) met EPOC design criteria. Most reported benefits for end-of-life processes including end-of-life discussions and documentation (9/11). Impact on end-of-life outcomes was mixed, with some benefit for psychosocial distress, satisfaction and concordance in care (3/7).

More methodologically robust studies are needed to evaluate the impact of interventions on end-of-life processes, including whether changes in processes translate to improved end-of-life outcomes. Interventions which target both the patient and substitute decision maker in an effort to achieve these changes would be beneficial.

Full reference: Waller, A. et al. (2017) Improving hospital-based end of life care processes and outcomes: a systematic review of research output, quality and effectiveness. BMC Palliative Care. Published: 19 May 2017

Inappropriate prescribing of preventative medication in patients with life-limiting illness

Systematic review  to examine the methods used to identify inappropriate prescribing of preventative medication in patients with life-limiting illness and to detail the nature of medications prescribed | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

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Objectives: To systematically review the literature to examine the methods used to identify inappropriate prescribing of preventative medication in patients with life-limiting illness and to detail the nature of medications prescribed.

Conclusions: Patients with life-limiting illnesses are prescribed preventative medications considered inappropriate in the context of diminished life expectancy. The way in which preventative medication appropriateness is assessed in patients with life-limiting illness varies considerably—with some methodologies utilising criteria previously developed for elderly populations. Given this lack of standardisation, improving the prescribing in this context requires an approach that is specifically designed and validated for populations with life-limiting illness.

Full reference: Todd, A. et al. (2017) Inappropriate prescribing of preventative medication in patients with life-limiting illness: a systematic review. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 7(2):113-121.