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Advance care planning (ACP) is identified as being an important process for people with dementia. However, its efficacy for improving outcomes relevant for the individual, carers and the health system has yet to be established.
We conducted a systematic review with the aims of testing the efficacy of ACP for people with dementia and describing the settings and population in which it has been evaluated.
A search was completed of electronic databases in August 2016. Articles were included if they described interventions aimed at increasing planning for future care of people with dementia, delivered to the person with dementia, their carers and/or health professionals.
Of 4,772 articles returned by searches, 30 met the inclusion criteria, testing interventions in nursing home (n= 16) community (n = 10) and acute care (n = 4) settings. Only 18 interventions directly involved the person with dementia, with the remainder focusing on surrogate decision-makers. In all settings, interventions were found effective in increasing ACP practice. In nursing homes, ACP was found to influence care and increase the concordance between end of life wishes and care provided. Interventions in the community were found to improve patient quality of life but were not shown to influence concordance.
Future research should focus on ways to involve people with dementia in decision-making through supported means.
The majority of self-management interventions are designed with a narrow focus on patient skills and fail to consider their potential as “catalysts” for improving care delivery. A project was undertaken to develop a patient self-management resource to support evidence-based, person-centered care for cancer pain and overcome barriers at the levels of the patient, provider, and health system.
The project used a mixed-method design with concurrent triangulation, including the following: a national online survey of current practice; two systematic reviews of cancer pain needs and education; a desktop review of online patient pain diaries and other related resources; consultation with stakeholders; and interviews with patients regarding acceptability and usefulness of a draft resource.
Findings suggested that an optimal self-management resource should encourage pain reporting, build patients’ sense of control, and support communication with providers and coordination between services. Each of these characteristics was identified as important in overcoming established barriers to cancer pain care. A pain self-management resource was developed to include: (1) a template for setting specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals of care, as well as identifying potential obstacles and ways to overcome these; and (2) a pain management plan detailing exacerbating and alleviating factors, current strategies for management, and contacts for support.
Significance of results
Self-management resources have the potential for addressing barriers not only at the patient level, but also at provider and health system levels. A cluster randomized controlled trial is under way to test effectiveness of the resource designed in this project in combination with pain screening, audit and feedback, and provider education. More research of this kind is needed to understand how interventions at different levels can be optimally combined to overcome barriers and improve care.
Recent research has demonstrated the challenges to self-identity associated with dementia, and the importance of maintaining involvement in decision-making while adjusting to changes in role and lifestyle. This study aimed to understand the lived experiences of couples living with dementia, with respect to healthcare, lifestyle, and “everyday” decision-making.
Semi-structured qualitative interviews using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis as the methodological approach.
Community and residential care settings in Australia.
Twenty eight participants who self-identified as being in a close and continuing relationship (N = 13 people with dementia, N = 15 spouse partners). Nine couples were interviewed together.
Participants described a spectrum of decision-making approaches (independent, joint, supported, and substituted), with these approaches often intertwining in everyday life. Couples’ approaches to decision-making were influenced by “decisional,” “individual,” “relational,” and “external” factors. The overarching themes of “knowing and being known,” “maintaining and re-defining couplehood” and “relational decision-making,” are used to interpret these experiences. The spousal relationship provided an important context for decision-making, with couples expressing a history and ongoing preference for joint decision-making, as an integral part of their experience of couplehood. However, the progressive impairments associated with dementia presented challenges to maintaining joint decision-making and mutuality in the relationship.
This study illustrates relational perspectives on decision-making in couples with dementia. Post-diagnostic support, education resources, proactive dyadic interventions, and assistance for spouse care partners may facilitate more productive attempts at joint decision-making by couples living with dementia.
The working ages (25–65 years) are a period when most people have significant work, financial, and family responsibilities. A small proportion of working age people will face an expected premature death from cancer or other life-limiting illness. Understanding the impact an expected premature death has on this population is important for informing support. The current study set out to summarize research describing the effects that facing an expected premature death has on employment, financial, and lifestyle of working age people and their families.
A systematic review using narrative synthesis approach. Four electronic databases were searched in July 2016 for peer-reviewed, English language studies focusing on the financial, employment, and lifestyle concerns of working age adults living with an advanced life-limiting illness and/or their carers and/or children.
Fifteen quantitative and 12 qualitative studies were included. Two-thirds (n = 18) were focused on cancer. All studies identified adverse effects on workforce participation, finances, and lifestyle. Many patients were forced to work less or give up work/retire early because of symptoms and reduced functioning. In addition to treatment costs, patients and families were also faced with child care, travel, and home/car modification costs. Being younger was associated with greater employment and financial burden, whereas having children was associated with lower functional well-being. Changes in family roles were identified as challenging regardless of diagnosis, whereas maintaining normalcy and creating stability was seen as a priority by parents with advanced cancer. This review is limited by the smaller number of studies focussing on the needs of working age people with nonmalignant disease.
Significance of results:
Working age people facing an expected premature death and their families have significant unmet financial, employment, and lifestyle needs. Comparing and contrasting their severity, timing, and priority for people with nonmalignant conditions is required to better understand their unique needs.
Palliative care for nursing home residents with advanced dementia is often sub-optimal due to poor communication and limited care planning. In a cluster randomized controlled trial, registered nurses (RNs) from 10 nursing homes were trained and funded to work as Palliative Care Planning Coordinators (PCPCs) to organize family case conferences and mentor staff. This qualitative sub-study aimed to explore PCPC and health professional perceptions of the benefits of facilitated case conferencing and identify factors influencing implementation.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the RNs in the PCPC role, other members of nursing home staff, and physicians who participated in case conferences. Analysis was conducted by two researchers using a thematic framework approach.
Interviews were conducted with 11 PCPCs, 18 other nurses, eight allied health workers, and three physicians. Perceived benefits of facilitated case conferencing included better communication between staff and families, greater multi-disciplinary involvement in case conferences and care planning, and improved staff attitudes and capabilities for dementia palliative care. Key factors influencing implementation included: staffing levels and time; support from management, staff and physicians; and positive family feedback.
The facilitated approach explored in this study addressed known barriers to case conferencing. However, current business models in the sector make it difficult for case conferencing to receive the required levels of nursing qualification, training, and time. A collaborative nursing home culture and ongoing relationships with health professionals are also prerequisites for success. Further studies should document resident and family perceptions to harness consumer advocacy.
Psychosocial interventions directed to couples where one has advanced cancer can reduce distress, enhance communication, and provide an opportunity for relational growth. The present study aimed to develop an intervention to facilitate communication about living with advanced cancer using the Patient Dignity Inventory (PDI) as the focus of a clinical interview with couples toward the end of life.
Couples were recruited from oncology and palliative care services at a Sydney hospital. After the PDI was developed and manualized as an intervention for couples, the PDI–Couple Interview (PDI–CI) was delivered by a clinical psychologist and comprised the following: (1) the patient completed the PDI; (2) the patient's identified partner completed the PDI about how they thought the patient was feeling; and (3) the clinician reviewed the results with the couple, summarizing areas of concurrence and discordance and facilitating discussion.
Some 34 couples were referred, of which 12 consented, 9 of whom completed the clinical interview. Reported benefits included enabling couples to express their concerns together, identifying differences in understanding, and giving “permission to speak” with each other. The focus of the interview around the PDI provided a structure that was particularly acceptable for men. Most couples confirmed that they were “on the same page,” and where differences were identified, it provided a forum for discussion and a mutual understanding of the challenges in managing advanced cancer within a supportive context.
Significance of Results:
Participant couples' experiences of the PDI–CI provide valuable insight into the benefits of this intervention. This preliminary study indicates that the intervention is a relatively simple means of enhancing closer communication and connection between couples where one has advanced cancer and may be an important adjunct in helping prepare couples for the challenges inherent toward the end of life. Further investigation of feasibility with a larger sample is recommended.
This study aimed to investigate health-related quality of life of palliative care (PC) clients and their caregivers, at baseline and follow-up, following a referral to a community PC service.
Quality of life of clients and their caregivers was respectively measured using the McGill Quality of Life instrument (MQoL) and the Caregiver Quality of Life Cancer Index (CQoLC) instruments. Participants were recruited from June 8 to October 27, 2006. This study was undertaken in one zone of an Area Health Service in New South Wales, which has a diverse socioeconomic population. The zone covers an area of 6237 km2 and is divided into five sectors, each with a PC service, all of which participated in this study.
Data were obtained from 49 clients and 43 caregivers at baseline, and 22 clients and 12 caregivers at 8 week follow-up. Twenty-one participants died and six moved out of the area during the study. At baseline, clients reported a low mean score for physical symptoms (3.3 ± 1.9) and a high score for support (8.7 ± 1.0). Caregivers scored a total CQoLC of 63.9 ± 21.4 and clients had a total QOL of 6.1 ± 1.3. At follow up, matched data for 22 clients and 13 caregivers demonstrated no statistical differences in quality of life.
Significance of results:
This study has provided evidence that health-related quality of life questionnaires show lower scores for physical health and higher scores for support, which can directly inform specific interventions targeted at the physical and support domains.
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