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

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Inpatient transfer to a care home for end-of-life care: What are the views and experiences of patients and their relatives?

Thomas, T. et al. Palliative Medicine. Published online: July 2016

Background: Transfers from hospital or ‘hospice palliative care units’ to care homes for end-of-life care are an increasingly common part of clinical practice but are a source of anxiety and distress for patients, relatives and healthcare professionals.

Aim: To understand the experiences of patients discharged to care homes for end-of-life care.

Design: Systematic review and narrative synthesis of the UK literature concerning inpatient transfer from a hospital or hospice palliative care unit to a care home for end-of-life care.

Results: The published literature is very limited: only three papers and one conference abstract were identified, all of low quality using Gough’s weight of evidence assessment. No papers examined transfer from hospital: all were of transfers from hospices and were retrospective case note reviews. Many patients were reported to have been negative or ambivalent about moving and experienced feelings of anxiety or abandonment when transferred. Relatives were often either vehemently opposed or ambivalent. Although some came to accept transfer, others reported the transfer to have seriously affected their loved one’s quality of life and that the process of finding a care home had been traumatic. No studies investigated patients’ views prospectively, the views of staff or the processes of decision-making.

Conclusion: The UK literature is very limited, despite such transfers being an increasingly common part of clinical practice and a source of concern to patients, relatives and staff alike. Further research is urgently needed in this area, especially studies of patients themselves, in order to understand their experiences and views.

Read the abstract here