Dementia Caregiver Grief and Bereavement

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias make up the fifth leading cause of death for individuals of 65 years of age and older in the United States. Seventy percent of these individuals will die in long-term care settings | Western Journal of Nursing Research

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The aim of this integrative review was to examine and synthesize the evidence on grief and bereavement in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias caregivers. This review identified five critical gaps in the existing evidence:

(a) a lack of ethnic and gender diversity among caregivers studied,

(b) limited use of valid instruments to study dementia caregiver grief and bereavement,

(c) no substantive research examining dementia caregiver grief and bereavement for caregivers whose family members die in long-term care,

(d) a lack of evidence examining the effect of hospice services on dementia caregiver grief and bereavement

(e) a lack of grief and bereavement interventions for dementia caregivers whose family members die in long-term care.

Full reference: Arruda, E.H. et al. (2017) Dementia Caregiver Grief and Bereavement: An Integrative Review. Western Journal of Nursing Research. Vol.  39 (no. 6) pp. 825-851

Quality of life, psychological burden, unmet needs, and care satisfaction in family caregivers of advanced cancer patients

Anneke Ullrich et. al. Quality of life, psychological burden, needs, and satisfaction during specialized inpatient palliative care in family caregivers of advanced cancer patients BMC Palliative Care. Published online 10 May 2017.

Background

This pilot study aimed to investigate quality of life, psychological burden, unmet needs, and care satisfaction in family caregivers of advanced cancer patients (FCs) during specialized inpatient palliative care (SIPC) and to test feasibility and acceptance of the questionnaire survey.

Methods

During a period of 12 weeks, FCs were recruited consecutively within 72 h after the patient’s admission. They completed validated scales on several outcomes: quality of life (SF-8), distress (DT), anxiety (GAD-7), depression (PHQ-9), supportive needs (FIN), palliative care outcome (POS), and satisfaction with care (FAMCARE-2). We used non-parametric tests, t-tests and correlation analyses to address our research questions.

Results

FCs showed high study commitment: 74 FCs were asked to participate whereof 54 (73%) agreed and 51 (69%) returned the questionnaire. Except for “bodily pain”, FCs’ quality of life (SF-8) was impaired in all subscales. Most FCs (96%) reported clinically significant own distress (DT), with sadness, sorrows and exhaustion being the most distressing problems (80–83%). Moderate to severe anxiety (GAD-7) and depression (PHQ-9) were prevalent in 43% and 41% of FCs, respectively. FCs scored a mean number of 16.3 of 20 needs (FIN) as very or extremely important (SD 3.3), 20% of needs were unmet in >50% of FCs. The mean POS score assessed by FCs was 16.6 (SD 5.0) and satisfaction (FAMCARE-2) was high (73.4; SD 8.3).

Conclusions

This pilot study demonstrated feasibility of the questionnaire survey and showed relevant psychosocial burden and unmet needs in FCs during SIPC. However, FCs’ satisfaction with SIPC seemed to be high.

Full document available here

Palliative sedation challenging the professional competency of health care providers and staff

Leboul, D. et al. BMC Palliative Care | Published online: 11 April 2017

Background: Despite recent advances in palliative medicine, sedating a terminally ill patient is regarded as an indispensable treatment to manage unbearable suffering. With the prospect of widespread use of palliative sedation, the feelings and representations of health care providers and staff (carers) regarding sedation must be carefully explored if we are to gain a better understanding of its impact and potential pitfalls. The objective of the study was to provide a comprehensive description of the opinions of carers about the use of sedation practices in palliative care units (PCU), which have become a focus of public attention following changes in legislation.

Conclusions: The uncertainty experienced by the carers with regard to the medical, psychosocial and ethical justification for sedation is a source of psychological burden and moral distress, and it has proved to be a major source of suffering in the workplace. Lastly, the study shows the uncertainty can have the positive effect of prompting the care team to devise ways to deal with it.

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Home palliative care works: but how?

Sarmento, V.P. et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published Online: 23 February 2017

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Objective: To understand patients and family caregivers’ experiences with home palliative care services, in order to identify, explore and integrate the key components of care that shape the experiences of service users.

Conclusions: Home palliative care teams improve patients and caregivers experience of security when facing life-limiting illnesses at home, by providing competent care and being present. These teams should therefore be widely available and empowered with the resources to be present and provide competent care.

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Supporting relatives and carers at the end of a patient’s life

Berry, M. et al. (2017) BMJ. 356:j367

  • Effective support can make a considerable difference to the relatives of people who are dying; helping to allay fears, reducing stress and anxiety, and minimising suffering in bereavement.

  • Clear communication around practical considerations (death certificate, funeral arrangements, information around autopsy, etc) and psychosocial support (normalising grief, cultural and spiritual considerations) is key.

  • Doctors need to familiarise themselves with local systems and protocols. Written communication in addition to verbal is beneficial.

All doctors, irrespective of their specialty or the setting in which they work, will care for patients who die. Around half of all deaths occur in hospitals.1 Evidence suggests that the quality of communication around this process is poorer in hospitals than in other settings, according to responses from relatives who have experienced bereavement.2 Over half of NHS complaints concern care of the dying.3

This article discusses how to best support relatives and carers at the end of a patient’s life. While the focus is on the hospital setting, the principles are applicable to community and care home settings. In this article, “relative” encompasses family members, care givers, and those close to the patient. The article presumes throughout that the patient has given consent for information to be shared with relatives (Box 1).

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Dying at home of cancer: whose needs are being met?

Pottle, J. et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published online: 16 January

clasped-hands-541849_960_720Objectives: Supporting patients to die in the place of their choosing is an important aspect of end of life care. Our study set out to answer the question: ‘How does the home environment influence perceptions of quality of death, and the experience of caring for the dying at home, for family carers and healthcare professionals (HCPs)?

Conclusions: We have shed light on the complexity of balancing the demands and the satisfaction of caring for someone dying at home. The ability to manage these conflicting needs influenced whether carers perceived the home setting as the best place for the person to have received care in their last days of life.

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Community-dwellers’ views on advance care planning in older people

Michael, N. et al. (2017) BMC Palliative. 16:2

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Background: Community-dwelling consumers of healthcare are increasing, many aging with life-limiting conditions and deteriorating cognition. However, few have had advance care planning discussions or completed documentation to ensure future care preferences are acted upon. This study examines the awareness, attitudes, and experiences of advance care planning amongst older people and unrelated offspring/caregivers of older people residing in the community.

Conclusions: Advance care planning programs traditionally assume participants are ‘planning ready’ to legally appoint a substitute decision maker (power of attorney) and record end-of-life treatment preferences in short time frames. This contrasts with how community dwelling older people and offspring/caregivers conceive future care decisions over time. Advance care planning programs need to include provision of information, which supports older people’s advance care planning understanding and management, and also supports offspring/caregivers’ development of strategies for broaching advance care planning with older people, and preparing for potential substitute decision maker roles. Development and integration of strategies to support older people’s decision-making when in the ‘grey zone’, with fluctuating cognitive capacities, needs further consideration. Findings support an advance care planning model with conversations occurring at key points across a person’s lifespan.

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