Transferring Palliative Care Inpatients to Residential Care

The survival of patients with advanced cancer, coupled with the increased presence of end-stage chronic illnesses in an aging population, is leading to a demand in palliative care | Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care

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Due to the ongoing need for acute-pain and symptom control in hospice/palliative care units, few are able to offer long-stay admission for those whose symptoms have stabilized. When a patient no longer requires specialist palliative care services, transfer from an inpatient palliative care facility may then be necessary. A core component of the role of palliative-care social workers involves working with patients and their families/carers when the care pathway shifts and the option of residential aged care facility (RACF) needs to be considered.

This research explored several issues, including the impact of this transition on the patient and their families and on the interdisciplinary health care team treating the patient. An investigation was undertaken to identify concerns and barriers regarding the transition from hospice care to RACF and opportunities were highlighted to improve clinical practice in this area. A tripartite approach was adopted conducting face-to-face interviews with patients, their families/carers, and health care professionals. Members of the interdisciplinary team were interviewed and social workers working in similar inpatient palliative-care facilities undertook telephone interviews to gauge their experiences. A thematic analysis discerned a number of themes highlighting the impact of this transition on key stakeholders and incorporated recommendations to improve or best manage this process.

The research has highlighted the difficulties that patients/families encounter in this transition, as well as the emphases of protecting the integrity of the patient and family. This is achieved by holding open and ongoing dialogue, particularly through family meetings and working in collaboration with the patient, the family, and the team. Understanding the experience and impact of this transition on key stakeholders is helpful in building up a knowledge base and to ensure a more effective relationship occurs. This research incorporated the voices of terminally ill patients, families, and members of the health care team in order to understand their views and recommendations for best managing the transition from a hospice/inpatient palliative-care facility to a RACF. This enables their input to have some real impetus in clinical practice and service delivery.

Full reference:  Kallianis, V. et al. (2017) “Unexpected and Distressing”: Understanding and Improving the Experience of Transferring Palliative Care Inpatients to Residential Care. Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care. Published online: 1 June 2017

Suitable support for anxious hospice patients

Investigation to provide insight into what nurses know, do and need to provide support to anxious patients in hospice care (HC) | BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care

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Methods: A mixed method study consisted of an online survey and focus groups (FGs) about what nurses know, do, and need was conducted. 336 HC nurses were invited to participate. Descriptive statistics were computed using SPSS. The χ2 and t-tests were conducted to compare. The FGs were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.

Results: The survey was completed by 265 nurses (79%), and five FGs (n=25) were conducted. Most nurses had >10 years working experience; mean age was 52. The majority (59%) felt that they were equipped with sufficient knowledge; however, lack of knowledge (31%) as well as lack of time (50%) were hampering factors. Identification of anxiety was difficult due to the variety of its expression. Tools for identifying were used by 37%. Interventions were generally chosen intuitively. A major responsibility was experienced in caring for patients with panic attacks during late night shifts, making immediate decisions necessary.

Conclusion: This study highlights the struggles of nurses caring for anxious patients in HC. Anxiety management is dependent on the competencies and preferences of the individual nurse. One-third of the nurses require additional training. According to HC nurses, the intervention set should include guidelines for applying assessment tools, effective communication strategies and decision models as well as prediction models in order to select tailored interventions. Future research should focus on patients’ perspectives in order to understand crucial measures for anxiety management.

Full reference: Zweers. D. et al. (2017) Suitable support for anxious hospice patients: what do nurses ‘know’, ‘do’ and ‘need’? An explanatory mixed method study. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published Online First: 30 June 2017.

Obesity associated with less hospice use

scales-1426079_1280A study led by researchers at University of Pittsburgh has found that obesity was associated with less hospice use and in-home death and more Medicare costs during the last six months of life. The team reported in Annals of Internal Medicine on the retrospective cohort study, using data from the Health and Retirement Study.

Morbidly obese patients were found to be the group least likely to use hospice.

Reference: John A. Harris eta l. The Relationship of Obesity to Hospice Use and Expenditures: A Cohort Study Annals of Internal Medicine. [Epub ahead of print 7 February 2017]

The experience of providing end of life care at a children’s hospice

McConnell, T. & Porter, S. BMC Palliative Care. Published online: 13 February 2017

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Background: More attention is being paid to the wellbeing of staff working in stressful situations. However, little is known about staff experience of providing end-of-life care to children within a hospice setting. This study aims to explore the experiences of care team staff who provide end-of-life care within a children’s hospice.

Conclusions: Service and policy initiatives should encourage open, informal peer/organisational support among the wider children’s palliative care sector. Further research should focus on paediatric palliative care education, particularly in relation to symptom management and communication at end-of-life, harnessing the expertise and breadth of knowledge that could be shared between children’s hospices and hospital settings.

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Treatment targeted at underlying disease versus palliative care in terminally ill patients

Reljic, T. et al. BMJ Open. 7:e014661

Objective: To assess the efficacy of active treatment targeted at underlying disease (TTD)/potentially curative treatments versus palliative care (PC) in improving overall survival (OS) in terminally ill patients.

Results: Initial search identified 8252 citations of which 10 RCTs (15 comparisons, 1549 patients) met inclusion criteria. All RCTs included patients with cancer. OS was reported in 7 RCTs (8 comparisons, 1158 patients). The pooled results showed no statistically significant difference in OS between TTD and PC (HR (95% CI) 0.85 (0.71 to 1.02)). The heterogeneity between pooled studies was high (I2=62.1%). Overall rates of adverse events were higher in the TTD arm.

Conclusions: Our systematic review of available RCTs in patients with terminal illness due to cancer shows that TTD compared with PC did not demonstrably impact OS and is associated with increased toxicity. The results provide assurance to physicians, patients and family that the patients’ survival will not be compromised by referral to hospice with focus on PC.

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Nationwide survey on volunteers’ training in hospice and palliative care in Poland

Pawłowski, L. et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published online: 29 July 2016

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Background: Volunteers working in hospice and palliative care facilities in Poland undertake various activities which are performed in accordance with legal regulations and the individual policies of each hospice. The aim of this study was to explore the roles and training of volunteers working in hospice and palliative care settings.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out that investigated the services performed by volunteers and their preparation for work within residential hospices. Questionnaires were distributed to volunteers and hospice representatives, and the responses obtained underwent statistical analysis.

Participants: A total of 180 volunteers and 28 hospice representatives from 29 residential hospices participated in this survey.

Results: All hospices surveyed were supported by volunteers. 79% of volunteers worked alongside patients and performed the following services: accompanying patients (76%), feeding patients (61%), cleaning rooms (48%), dressing and bathing (42%) and organising leisure time (40%). Fewer volunteers were involved in activities outside of patient support—for example, charity work and fundraising (34%), cleaning hospice buildings (23%) as well as providing information and education (22%). According to volunteers, prior to undertaking their duties, 64% participated in theoretical training and 37% took part in a practical course. The majority attended courses relating to general knowledge of hospice and palliative care (64%) and volunteer rights and duties (55%).

Conclusions: Overall, proper training was an essential requirement needed to be fulfilled by volunteers, particularly when involved in direct patient support. Most volunteers were simultaneously involved in various areas of service; therefore, their training should be comprehensive.

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