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Our aim was to explore the presence of symptoms, symptom relief, and other key aspects of palliative care during the final week of life among older people residing in nursing homes.
Our study employed data from the Swedish Palliative Care Register on all registered individuals aged 60 and older who had died in nursing homes during the years 2011 and 2012. Variables pertaining to monitoring and treatment of symptoms, end-of-life discussions, circumstances around the death, and the individual characteristics of deceased individuals were explored using descriptive statistics.
The most common underlying causes of death among the 49,172 deceased nursing home residents were circulatory diseases (42.2%) and dementia (22.7%). The most prevalent symptom was pain (58.7%), followed by rattles (42.4%), anxiety (33.0%), confusion (21.8%), shortness of breath (14.0%), and nausea (11.1%). Pain was the symptom with the highest degree of total relief (46.3%), whereas shortness of breath and confusion were totally relieved in 6.1 and 4.3% of all individuals, respectively. The use of valid instruments for symptom assessment was reported for pain in 12.3% and for other symptoms in 7.8% of subjects. The most prevalent individual prescriptions for injection PRN (pro re nata, according to circumstances) were for pain treatment (79.5%) and rattles (72.8%). End-of-life discussions were performed with 27.3% of all the deceased individuals and with 53.9% of their relatives. Of all individuals, 82.1% had someone present at death, and 15.8% died alone. Of all the nursing home resident deaths recorded, 45.3% died in their preferred place.
Significance of results:
There were large variations in degree of relief from different symptoms during the final week of life. Pain was the most prevalent symptom, and it was also the symptom with the highest proportion of total/partial relief. Other symptoms were less prevalent but also less well-relieved. Our results indicate a need for improvement of palliative care in nursing home settings, focusing on management of distressing symptoms and promotion of end-of-life discussions.
Family caregivers have been given increasing importance in palliative home care and face a great responsibility as caregivers for patients suffering from incurable illness. Preparedness for caregiving has been found to moderate negative effects and promote well-being in family caregivers. The aim of our study was to explore family caregivers' own experiences of preparing for caregiving in specialized palliative home care.
An interpretive descriptive design was chosen. A strategic sampling method was applied with a focus on participants who rated their preparedness as high and low using a structured instrument. Qualitative interviews were completed with 12 family caregivers. They were analyzed using a constant-comparative technique.
Family caregivers described their experience of preparing for caregiving as an ongoing process, rather than something done in advance. The process was illustrated through three subprocesses: “awaring” (realizing the seriousness of the situation), “adjusting” (managing a challenging situation), and “anticipating” (planning for the inevitable loss).
Significance of results:
Knowledge about the process of preparedness for caregiving and its subprocesses could be valuable to healthcare professionals, given the positive effects shown by preparedness in this context. Being able to recognize the different subprocesses of preparedness for caregiving could provide healthcare professionals with opportunities to support family caregivers in managing them. Preparedness for caregiving should be seen as a process to be supported and promoted continuously in palliative home care, not just at enrollment.
To explore how physicians communicatively enable patients' understanding of bodily changes in gastrointestinal cancer care consultations.
Two datasets were used. The first consisted of transcribed video-recorded palliative care consultations with three oncologists and six patients diagnosed with advanced gastrointestinal cancer, in the context of outpatient palliative care. The second dataset was audio-recorded transcriptions from diagnostic consultations with six surgeons and seven patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, in the context of cancer surgery. An inductively driven and iterative analysis of interaction was performed, guided by Wetherell et al. (2001).
Two overarching communicative strategies were identified: (1) “visualizing strategies,” with the dimensions: visible strategies (visualizing with what you actually or potentially can see), sensory strategies (visualizing with what is possible to feel), and imaginative strategies; and (2) “contrasting strategies,” with the dimensions: contrasting subjective experiences and contrasting between the patient and other people.
Significance of results:
The visualizing and contrasting communicative strategies form parts of physicians' tacit and experience-based knowledge. The strategies employed by physicians reveal clear potentials to enable patients' understanding and sense making of bodily changes. However, these strategies need to be explicated and problematized as parts of both consultation practice and basic medical education. By means of increased awareness, physicians can more easily identify turning points in patients' levels of understanding, thereby enriching ordinary medical consultations with reflected pedagogical strategies and skills in how to dialogue in a person-centered manner.
The objective of this study was to enhance the depth of existing knowledge about meanings and experiential outcomes of bodily care in the context of an inpatient specialist palliative setting.
Interpretative phenomenology was chosen as the study sought to explore individuals' lived experiences related to bodily care. Nine participants (five women, four men) of various ages and with various metastasized cancers and bodily-care needs, all from one specialist palliative care ward, participated. Data were collected with repeated narrative interviews and supplementary participating observations. Analysis was informed by van Manen's approach.
The following meanings and experiential outcomes of bodily care were revealed by our study: maintaining and losing body capability, breaching borders of bodily integrity, being comforted and relieved in bodily-care situations, and being left in distress with unmet needs. These meanings overlap and shape the nature of each other and involve comforting and distressing experiences related to what can be described as conditional dimensions: the particular situation, one's own experiences of the body, and healthcare professionals' approaches.
Significance of results:
The results, based on specialist palliative care patients' experiences, outline the meanings and outcomes that relate to the quintessence and complexity of palliative care, deriving from dying persons' blend of both basic and symptom-oriented bodily-care needs. Moreover, the results outline how these two dimensions of care equally influence whether comfort and well-being are facilitated or not. Considering this, specialist palliative care may consider how to best integrate and acknowledge the value of skilled basic nursing care as part of and complementary to expertise in symptom relief during the trajectories of illness and dying.
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