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In sub-Saharan Africa, there are no validated screening tools for delirium in older adults, despite the known vulnerability of older people to delirium and the associated adverse outcomes. This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of a brief smartphone-based assessment of arousal and attention (DelApp) in the identification of delirium amongst older adults admitted to the medical department of a tertiary referral hospital in Northern Tanzania.
Consecutive admissions were screened using the DelApp during a larger study of delirium prevalence and risk factors. All participants subsequently underwent detailed clinical assessment for delirium by a research doctor. Delirium and dementia were identified against DSM-5 criteria by consensus.
Complete data for 66 individuals were collected of whom 15 (22.7%) had delirium, 24.5% had dementia without delirium, and 10.6% had delirium superimposed on dementia. Sensitivity and specificity of the DelApp for delirium were 0.87 and 0.62, respectively (AUROC 0.77) and 0.88 and 0.73 (AUROC 0.85) for major cognitive impairment (dementia and delirium combined). Lower DelApp score was associated with age, significant visual impairment (<6/60 acuity), illness severity, reduced arousal and DSM-5 delirium on univariable analysis, but on multivariable logistic regression only arousal remained significant.
In this setting, the DelApp performed well in identifying delirium and major cognitive impairment but did not differentiate delirium and dementia. Performance is likely to have been affected by confounders including uncorrected visual impairment and reduced level of arousal without delirium. Negative predictive value was nevertheless high, indicating excellent ‘rule out’ value in this setting.
Little is known about the current views and practices of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) regarding delivery of hospital palliative care. The present qualitative study explored the views of nursing staff and medical professionals on providing palliative and end-of-life care (EoLC) to hospital inpatients in Tanzania.
Focus group discussions were conducted with a purposive sample of HCPs working on the medical and pediatric wards of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, a tertiary referral hospital in northern Tanzania. Transcriptions were coded using a thematic approach.
In total, 32 healthcare workers were interviewed via 7 focus group discussions and 1 semistructured interview. Four major themes were identified. First, HCPs held strong views on what factors were important to enable individuals with a life-limiting diagnosis to live and die well. Arriving at a state of “acceptance” was the ultimate goal; however, they acknowledged that they often fell short of achieving this for inpatients. Thus, the second theme involved identifying the “barriers” to delivering palliative care in hospital. Another important factor identified was difficulty with complex communications, particularly “breaking bad news,” the third theme. Fourth, participants were divided about their personal preferences for “place of EoLC,” but all emphasized the benefits of the hospital setting so as to enable better symptom control.
Significance of results:
Despite the fact that all the HCPs interviewed were regularly involved in providing palliative and EoLC, they had received limited formal training in its provision, although they identified such training as a universal requirement. This training gap is likely to be present across much of SSA. Palliative care training, particularly in terms of communication skills, should be comprehensively integrated within undergraduate and postgraduate education. Research is needed to develop culturally appropriate curricula to equip HCPs to manage the complex communication challenges that occur in caring for a diverse inpatient group with palliative care needs.
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