Health Care Use by Older Adults With Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the End of Life

Little is known about the patterns and predictors of the use of end-of-life health care among patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) | Journal of Clinical Oncology

End-of-life care is particularly relevant for older adults with AML because of their poor prognosis.

We performed a population-based, retrospective cohort study of patients with AML who were ≥ 66 years of age at diagnosis and diagnosed during the period from 1999 to 2011 and died before December 31, 2012. Medicare claims were used to assess patterns of hospice care and use of aggressive treatment. Predictors of these end points were evaluated using multivariable logistic regression analyses.

In the overall cohort (N = 13,156), hospice care after AML diagnosis increased from 31.3% in 1999 to 56.4% in 2012, but the increase was primarily driven by late hospice enrollment that occurred in the last 7 days of life. Among the 5,847 patients who enrolled in hospice, 47.4% and 28.8% started their first hospice enrollment in the last 7 and 3 days of life, respectively. Among patients who transferred in and out of hospice care, 62% received transfusions outside hospice. Additionally, the use of chemotherapy within the last 14 days of life increased from 7.7% in 1999 to 18.8% in 2012. Patients who were male and nonwhite were less likely to enroll in hospice and more likely to receive chemotherapy or be admitted to intensive care units at the end of life. Conversely, older patients were less likely to receive chemotherapy or have intensive care unit admission at the end of life, and were more likely to enroll in hospice.

End-of-life care for older patients with AML is suboptimal. Additional research is warranted to identify reasons for their low use of hospice services and strategies to enhance end-of-life care for these patients.

Full reference: Wang, R. et al. (2017) Health Care Use by Older Adults With Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the End of Life. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online: 7th August 2017

Talking about end-of-life care

The purpose of the paper is to describe how residents express preferences for end-of-life (EOL) care | Geriatric Nursing

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For this qualitative study, we conducted semi-structured interviews and completed conventional content analysis to describe how residents’ expressed their preferences for care at the end of life. Sixteen residents from four nursing homes (NH) in southeastern Pennsylvania participated in this study. Residents were on average 88 years old, primarily non White, and widowed. Three key domains emerged from the analyses: Preferences for Today, Anticipating the End of My Life, and Preferences for Final Days. Residents linked their everyday living and EOL preferences by using ‘if and then’ logic to convey anticipation and readiness related to EOL. These findings suggest new strategies to start discussions of EOL care preferences with NH residents.

Full reference: Towsley, G.L. et al. (2017) Talking about end-of-life care: Perspectives of nursing home residents. Geriatric Nursing. Published online: 01 August 2017

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

Adjusting to bodily decline at the end-of-life

The purpose of this study was to better understand the lived experience of functional decline for people with advanced cancer living at home | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

Context: People with advanced cancer experience bodily change resulting in debilitating functional decline. Although inability to participate in everyday activities (occupation) contributes to profound suffering, limited research has examined the relationship between altered bodily experience (embodiment) and functional ability.

Conclusions: This study highlights the role active participation in everyday activities plays in mediating adjustment to functional decline. These findings challenge us to look beyond palliation of physical symptoms and psychospiritual care as ends in themselves. Symptom control and palliation should be viewed as mechanisms to optimise active participation in essential and valued activities.

Full reference: Morgan, D.D., et al. (2017) Living actively in the face of impending death: constantly adjusting to bodily decline at the end-of-life

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

De Witt Jansen, B. et al. (2017) Journal of Clinical Nursing. 26(9-10) pp. 1234–1244

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.

Background: 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.

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.

Read the abstract here