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1.  Burden for family carers at the end of life; a mixed-method study of the perspectives of family carers and GPs 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:16.
Since many patients spend most of the time at home at the end of life, this may affect the burden for family carers and constitute a risk factor for the patients’ hospitalisation. This study aimed to explore family carers’ burden in the final three months of the patient’s life, from the perspective of both carers and general practitioners (GPs), and to assess whether family burden, as defined by the GP, is associated with hospitalisation.
A cross-sectional nationwide survey among GPs and family carers was performed. Participants were 194 GPs and 74 family carers of patients who died non-suddenly. Additionally, in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 family carers. For the quantitative analyses descriptive statistics, weighted Kappa and multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed. For the qualitative part thematic analysis was conducted.
The proportion of family carers experiencing a fairly heavy or severe burden increased significantly from 32% (second and third months before death) to 66% (one week before death). Most carers (95%) felt an emotional burden and 29% felt a physical burden in the final week. Three-quarters of carers did not perceive their burden as a problem because caring often felt rewarding. No significant association was found between the characteristics of family caregivers or professional care and the degree of family caregiver burden. Also, there was no significant evidence that patients of family carers for whom the GP assessed a fairly heavy to severe burden, were more likely to be hospitalised.
The different overall assessment of family carers’ burden between GPs and family carers and the increasing emotional and physical burden of family carers towards the end constitute relevant information for GPs that will help them understand and anticipate carers’ personal needs.
PMCID: PMC3974231  PMID: 24678941
Palliative care; General practitioner; Family carer; Burden; Hospitalisation; Mixed method
2.  Regoaling: a conceptual model of how parents of children with serious illness change medical care goals 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:9.
Parents of seriously ill children participate in making difficult medical decisions for their child. In some cases, parents face situations where their initial goals, such as curing the condition, may have become exceedingly unlikely. While some parents continue to pursue these goals, others relinquish their initial goals and generate new goals such as maintaining the child’s quality of life. We call this process of transitioning from one set of goals to another regoaling.
Regoaling involves factors that either promote or inhibit the regoaling process, including disengagement from goals, reengagement in new goals, positive and negative affect, and hopeful thinking. We examine these factors in the context of parental decision making for a seriously ill child, presenting a dynamic conceptual model of regoaling. This model highlights four research questions that will be empirically tested in an ongoing longitudinal study of medical decision making among parents of children with serious illness. Additionally, we consider potential clinical implications of regoaling for the practice of pediatric palliative care.
The psychosocial model of regoaling by parents of children with a serious illness predicts that parents who experience both positive and negative affect and hopeful patterns of thought will be more likely to relinquish one set of goals and pursue a new set of goals. A greater understanding of how parents undergo this transition may enable clinicians to better support them through this difficult process.
PMCID: PMC3975157  PMID: 24625345
Parental decision making; Pediatric palliative care; Goals; Disengagement; Reengagement; Regoaling; Positive affect; Negative affect; Hopeful thinking; Conceptual model
3.  Death talk: gender differences in talking about one’s own impending death 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:8.
According to common practice based on a generally agreed interpretation of Icelandic law on the rights of patients, health care professionals cannot discuss prognosis and treatment with a patient’s family without that patient’s consent. This limitation poses ethical problems, because research has shown that, in the absence of insight and communication regarding a patient’s impending death, patient’s significant others may subsequently experience long-term psychological distress. It is also reportedly important for most dying patients to know that health care personnel are comfortable with talking about death and dying. There is only very limited information concerning gender differences regarding death talk in terminal care patients.
This is a retrospective analysis of detailed prospective “field notes” from chaplain interviews of all patients aged 30–75 years receiving palliative care and/or with DNR (do not resuscitate) written on their charts who requested an interview with a hospital chaplain during a period of 3 years. After all study patients had died, these notes were analyzed to assess the prevalence of patient-initiated discussions regarding their own impending death and whether non-provocative evocation-type interventions had facilitated such communication.
During the 3-year study period, 195 interviews (114 men, 81 women) were conducted. According to the field notes, 80% of women and 30% of men initiated death talk within the planned 30-minute interviews. After evoking interventions, 59% (67/114) of men and 91% (74/81) of women engaged in death talk. Even with these interventions, at the end of the first interview gender differences were still statistically significant (p = 0.001). By the end of the second interview gender difference was less, but still statistically significant (p = 0.001).
Gender differences in terminal care communication may be radically reduced by using simple evocation methods that are relatively unpretentious, but require considerable clinical training.
Men in terminal care are more reluctant than women to enter into discussion regarding their own impending death in clinical settings. Intervention based on non-provocative evocation methods may increase death talk in both genders, the relative increase being higher for men.
PMCID: PMC3975272  PMID: 24618410
Death; Terminal care; Communication; Evocation; Gender
4.  Corticosteroid prescribing in palliative care settings: a retrospective analysis in New Zealand 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:7.
Corticosteroids are a potent group of medicines, with many adverse effects, that are widely prescribed in palliative care for both specific and non-specific indications. The aim of this study was to document current patterns of corticosteroid prescribing in New Zealand palliative care settings and to reflect on whether they were in line with international experience.
A retrospective review of inpatient use of corticosteroids was undertaken in a sample of six New Zealand hospices. Data were collected on numbers of patients prescribed corticosteroids, indications for use, choice of agent, doses and dosage changes, duration of course, incidence of adverse effects, method of stopping, use of guidelines, and processes for monitoring and review.
The case notes of 1179 inpatients were reviewed and 768 patients (65.1%) had received at least one course of corticosteroids. There was a marked consistency in the proportion of patients prescribed corticosteroids among the sample hospices (61-69%). Detailed information was recorded for a sample of 260 patients. Corticosteroids were prescribed most commonly for non-specific reasons (40.4% of prescribing events), followed by neurological (25.3%) and soft tissue infiltration symptoms (14.4%). The agent of choice was dexamethasone with a dose range of 1 mg to 40 mg and a median dose of 8 mg. The median course duration for all corticosteroid prescribing events was 29 days. Abrupt stopping occurred in 72 (23.2%) cases, of these 35 (49%) had been on a course of corticosteroids for more than three weeks. Guidelines were only available in one hospice. Monitoring and review was documented in 135 (52%) of cases, and adverse effects were recorded in 82 (32%); these are likely to be underestimates due to a high level of non-recording.
This New Zealand study showed that corticosteroids are widely prescribed in palliative care, most commonly for non-specific indications. These findings are consistent with the international literature in this area and this large, multi-site study adds weight to the findings and the need for ongoing discussion about the place of these drugs in palliative care.
PMCID: PMC3974024  PMID: 24606729
Palliative care; Hospices; Corticosteroids; Prescribing; Evidence-based medicine; Guidelines
5.  Assessment of knowledge, attitude and practice and associated factors towards palliative care among nurses working in selected hospitals, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:6.
To provide quality care at the end of life or for chronically sick patients, nurses must have good knowledge, attitude and practice about palliative care (PC). In Ethiopia PC is new and very little is known about the type of services offered and the readiness of nurses to provide PC.
A cross sectional quantitative study design was carried out using 341 nurses working in selected hospitals in Addis Ababa from January 2012 to May 2012. Systematic random sampling was the method employed to select two governmental and two non-governmental hospitals. The researchers used triangulation in their study method making use of: Frommelt’s Attitude Toward Care of the Dying (FATCOD) Scale, Palliative Care Quiz for Nursing (PCQN) and practice questions. This led to enhanced validity of the data. EPI-INFO and SPSS software statistical packages were applied for data entry and analysis.
Of the total 365 nurses selected, a response rate of 341 (94.2%) were registered. Out of the total study participants, 104 (30.5%) had good knowledge and 259 (76%) had favorable attitude towards PC. Medical and surgical wards as well as training on PC were positively associated with knowledge of nurses. Institution, individuals’ level of education, working in medical ward and the training they took part on PC were also significantly associated with the attitude the nurses had. Nurses working in Hayat Hospital (nongovernmental) had a 71.5% chance of having unfavorable attitude towards PC than those working in Black Lion Hospital (governmental). Regarding their knowledge aspect of practice, the majority of the respondents 260 (76.2%) had poor implementation, and nearly half of the respondents had reported that the diagnosis of patients was usually performed at the terminal stage. In line with this, spiritual and medical conditions were highly taken into consideration while dealing with terminally ill patients.
The nurses had poor knowledge and knowledge aspect of practice, but their attitude towards PC was favorable. Recommendations are that due attention should be given towards PC by the national health policy and needs to be incorporated in the national curriculum of nurse education.
PMCID: PMC3975866  PMID: 24593779
Addis Ababa; Attitude; Knowledge; Nurses; Palliative care and practice
6.  The effect and process evaluations of the national quality improvement programme for palliative care: the study protocol 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:5.
The nationwide integration of palliative care best practices into general care settings is challenging but important in improving the quality of palliative care. This is why the Dutch National Quality Improvement Programme for Palliative Care has recently been launched. This four-year programme consists of about 70 implementation trajectories of best practices. A large evaluation study has been set up to evaluate this national programme and separate implementation trajectories.
This paper presents the protocol of the evaluation study consisting of a quantitative effect evaluation and a qualitative process evaluation. The effect evaluation has a pre-test post-test design, with measurements before implementation (month 0) and after implementation (month 9) of a best practice. Patients are eligible if they have a life expectancy of less than six months and/or if they are undergoing palliative treatment and provided they are physically and mentally capable of responding to questionnaires. Bereaved relatives are eligible if they have been involved in the care of a deceased patient who died after a sickbed between six weeks and six months ago. Three types of measurement instruments are used: (1) numerical rating scales for six symptoms (pain, fatigue, breathlessness, obstipation, sadness and anxiety), (2) the Consumer Quality Index Palliative Care - patient version and (3) the version for bereaved relatives.
The process evaluation consists of analysing implementation plans and reports of the implementation, and individual and group interviews with healthcare professionals. This will be done nine to eleven months after the start of the implementation of a best practice.
This mixed-method evaluation study gives more insight into the effects of the total programme and the separate implementation trajectories. However, evaluation of large quality improvement programmes is complicated due to changing, non-controlled environments. Therefore, it is important that an effect evaluation is combined with a process evaluation.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3936932  PMID: 24555536
Palliative care; Terminal care; End-of-life care; Effect evaluation; Process evaluation; Quality improvement; Complex intervention; Implementation; Effectiveness
7.  Public preferences and priorities for end-of-life care in Kenya: a population-based street survey 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:4.
End-of-life care needs are great in Africa due to the burden of disease. This study aimed to explore public preferences and priorities for end-of-life care in Nairobi, Kenya.
Population-based street survey of Kenyans aged ≥18; researchers approached every 10th person, alternating men and women. Structured interviews investigated quality vs. quantity of life, care priorities, preferences for information, decision-making, place of death (most and least favourite) and focus of care in a hypothetical scenario of serious illness with <1 year to live. Descriptive analysis examined variations.
201 individuals were interviewed (100 women) representing 17 tribes (n = 90 44.8%, Kikuyu). 56.7% (n = 114) said they would always like to be told if they had limited time left. The majority (n = 121, 61.4%) preferred quality of life over quantity i.e. extending life (n = 47, 23.9%). Keeping a positive attitude and ensuring relatives/friends were not worried were prioritised above having pain/discomfort relieved. The three most concerning problems were pain (45.8%), family burden (34.8%) and personal psychological distress (29.8%). Home was both the most (51.1% n = 98) and least (23.7% n = 44) preferred place of death.
This first population-based survey on preferences and priorities for end-of-life care in Africa revealed that psycho-social domains were of greatest importance to the public, but also identified variations that require further exploration. If citizens’ preferences and priorities are to be met, the development of end-of-life care services to deliver preferences in Kenya should ensure an holistic model of palliative care responsive to individual preferences across care settings including at home.
PMCID: PMC3936799  PMID: 24529217
Public health; Hospices; Palliative care; Attitude to death; Public opinion; Africa
8.  Understanding the role of the volunteer in specialist palliative care: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:3.
Volunteers make a major contribution to palliative patient care, and qualitative studies have been undertaken to explore their involvement. With the aim of making connections between existing studies to derive enhanced meanings, we undertook a systematic review of these qualitative studies including synthesising the findings. We sought to uncover how the role of volunteers with direct contact with patients in specialist palliative care is understood by volunteers, patients, their families, and staff.
We searched for relevant literature that explored the role of the volunteer including electronic citation databases and reference lists of included studies, and also undertook handsearches of selected journals to find studies which met inclusion criteria. We quality appraised included studies, and synthesised study findings using a novel synthesis method, thematic synthesis.
We found 12 relevant studies undertaken in both inpatient and home-care settings, with volunteers, volunteer coordinators, patients and families. Studies explored the role of general volunteers as opposed to those offering any professional skills. Three theme clusters were found: the distinctness of the volunteer role, the characteristics of the role, and the volunteer experience of the role. The first answers the question, is there a separate volunteer role? We found that to some extent the role was distinctive. The volunteer may act as a mediator between the patient and the staff. However, we also found some contradictions. Volunteers may take on temporary surrogate family-type relationship roles. They may also take on some of the characteristics of a paid professional. The second cluster helps to describe the essence of the role. Here, we found that the dominant feature was that the role is social in nature. The third helps to explain aspects of the role from the point of view of volunteers themselves. It highlighted that the role is seen by volunteers as flexible, informal and sometimes peripheral. These characteristics some volunteers find stressful.
This paper demonstrates how qualitative research can be sythnesised systematically, extending methodological techniques to help answer difficult research questions. It provides information that may help managers and service planners to support volunteers appropriately.
PMCID: PMC3928898  PMID: 24506971
Palliative care; Volunteers; Role; Systematic review; Thematic synthesis; Qualitative studies
9.  BMC Palliative Care reviewer acknowledgement, 2013 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:2.
Contributing reviewers
The editors of BMC Palliative Care would like to thank all our reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 12 (2013).
PMCID: PMC3912514  PMID: 24490583
10.  Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking at the end of life – a ‘systematic search and review’ giving insight into an option of hastening death in capacitated adults at the end of life 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:1.
The terminally ill person’s autonomy and control are important in preserving the quality of life in situations of unbearable suffering. Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED) at the end of life has been discussed over the past 20 years as one possibility of hastening death. This article presents a ‘systematic search and review’ of published literature concerned with VSED as an option of hastening death at the end of life by adults with decision-making capacity.
Electronic databases PubMed, EBSCOhost CINAHL and Ovid PsycINFO were systematically searched. Additionally, Google Scholar was searched and reference lists of included articles were checked. Data of the included studies were extracted, evaluated and summarized in narrative form.
Overall, out of 29 eligible articles 16 were included in this review. VSED can be defined as an action by a competent, capacitated person, who voluntarily and deliberately chooses to stop eating and drinking with the primary intention of hastening death because of the persistence of unacceptable suffering. An estimated number of deaths by VSED was only provided by one study from the Netherlands, which revealed a prevalence of 2.1% of deaths/year (on average 2800 deaths/year). Main reasons for patients hastening death by VSED are: readiness to die, life perceived as being pointless, poor quality of life, a desire to die at home, and the wish to control the circumstances of death. The physiological processes occurring during VSED and the supportive care interventions could not be identified through our search.
The included articles provide marginal insight into VSED for hastening death. Research is needed in the field of theory-building and should be based on qualitative studies from different perspectives (patient, family members, and healthcare workers) about physiological processes during VSED, and about the prevalence and magnitude of VSED. Based on these findings supportive care interventions for patients and family members and recommendations for healthcare staff should be developed and tested.
PMCID: PMC3893440  PMID: 24400678
Systematic search and review; Voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED); Hastened death; Unbearable suffering; End-of-life; Terminal illness; Terminal care; Palliative care
11.  Hope against hope: exploring the hopes and challenges of rural female caregivers of persons with advanced cancer 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:44.
This paper focuses on the qualitative component of a study evaluating a hope intervention, entitled Living with Hope Program (LWHP), designed to foster hope in female caregivers of family members living with advanced cancer. The purpose of this research is to share, in the form of a story, the experiences of rural female caregivers caring for family members with advanced cancer, focusing on what fosters their hope. Hope is a psychosocial and spiritual resource that has been found to help family caregivers live through difficult transitions and challenges.
Twenty-three participants from rural Western Canada completed daily journal entries documenting their hopes and challenges. Cortazzi’s (2001) method of narrative analysis was used to analyze the data, which was then transcribed into a narrative entitled ‘hope against hope.’
The journal entries highlighted: the caregivers’ hopes and what fostered their hope; the various challenges of caregiving; self-care strategies, and; their emotional journey. Hope was integrated throughout their entire experience, and ‘hope against hope’ describes how hope persists even when there is no hope for a cure.
This research contributes to the assessment of caregiver interventions that impact hope and quality of life, while illustrating the value of a narrative approach to both research and practice. Journaling may be particularly valuable for rural caregivers who are isolated, and may lack direct professional and peer support. There is an opportunity for health professionals and other providers to foster a relationship of trust with family caregivers, in which their story can be told openly and where practitioners pay closer attention to the psychosocial needs of caregivers.
PMCID: PMC3878500  PMID: 24341372
Hope; Palliative and end of life care; Caregiving; Rural; Narrative research
12.  Cancer-related neuropathic pain in out-patient oncology clinics: a European survey 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:41.
Although pain is frequently experienced by patients with cancer, it remains under-treated. The primary aim of this study was to estimate the prevalence of cancer-related neuropathic pain (CRNP) in patients with chronic pain who attended an outpatient clinic for standard care in Europe (irrespective of the reason or stage of the cancer). The secondary aims of this study were to characterise pain and cancer in patients with CRNP (including treatment) and to evaluate the usefulness of the painDETECT (PD-Q) screening tool to help physicians identify a potential neuropathic component of cancer-related pain.
An observational, non-interventional, cross-sectional, multi-centre study of adult patients with cancer using patient and physician case report forms (CRFs). Patients with CRNP were identified by physicians’ clinical assessments after examining the completed PD-Q.
A total of 951 patients visiting outpatient clinics across Europe were enrolled in this study between August 2010 and July 2011. Of these, 310 patients (32.60%; 95% confidence interval 29.62, 35.58) were identified as having CRNP. Twenty-nine of 39 (74.4%) physicians who completed the CRF relating to the PD-Q considered it a useful tool to help detect CRNP in daily practice and 28 of 39 (71.8%) indicated that they would use this tool in the future for most or some of their patients. Data from physicians before and after review of the completed PD-Qs showed a shift in clinical opinion (either to positive CRNP diagnosis [yes] or negative CRNP diagnosis [no]) in respect of 142 patients; about half of which (74) were categorised with an initial diagnosis of unknown. Opinions also shifted from a no to a yes diagnosis in 10 patients and from a yes to a no diagnosis in 51 patients.
Approximately one-third of adults with cancer experiencing chronic pain attending outpatient clinics as part of routine care were considered to have CRNP in the opinion of the physicians after considering scores on the PD-Q. While physicians did not consider the PD-Q to be a useful tool for all patients, shifts in diagnosis before and after the use of this tool indicate that it may help physicians identify CRNP, especially where there is initial uncertainty.
PMCID: PMC3827879  PMID: 24200014
Clinical oncology; Epidemiology; Neuropathic pain; Outpatients; Questionnaire
13.  Interventions to encourage discussion of end-of-life preferences between members of the general population and the people closest to them - a systematic literature review 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:40.
Discussing end of life preferences can be beneficial, and it is thought that the best time to have these conversations is usually when people are well. This review aims to establish current evidence for the effectiveness of community-based interventions to encourage people to consider, and to discuss with those closest to them, their preferences for end of life care or what they wish to happen after their death.
A systematic literature review was undertaken. A systematic search was conducted using Scopus and Google, and academic experts were contacted. Studies were included if they evaluated interventions intended to encourage people to discuss their end of life preferences with those closest to them, or to address known barriers to these discussions. Reported outcomes had to relate to attitude or behaviour change in the target group, or target group perceptions of the intervention. Studies were excluded if the intervention targeted only people with a life-limiting illness, or intended specifically to facilitate communication of end of life preferences between patients and healthcare staff. Studies were systematically described and assessed for quality. There was no attempt to combine results of different studies.
The Scopus search identified 5,743 citations, and the Google search identified over 40,000, of which the first 40 pages were scanned. Five studies were included, four identified through the Scopus search and one from a book identified through Google. Three studies reported positive results, two were less positive. A peer education programme on end of life planning for older people, featuring small discussion workshops, was positively appraised by participants. An arts project bringing hospice users and school pupils together appeared to help normalise death for school pupils. A public information ‘roadshow’ engaged people using an informal questionnaire survey, facilitating conversations between people who participated together. Public lectures by physicians intending to promoting home death as a possibility were unsuccessful in changing attitudes at six months follow-up. A module on end of life planning delivered as part of ‘expert patient’ education programme on the management of chronic illness was not well received by participants.
Available evidence highlights the importance of actively engaging people rather than passively providing information, and of ensuring an appropriate context for interventions. However, data are limited and there is a need for more research and for sharing of best practice.
PMCID: PMC3826509  PMID: 24188214
Public health; End of life; Palliative care; Health promotion
14.  Do pilocarpine drops help dry mouth in palliative care patients: a protocol for an aggregated series of n-of-1 trials 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:39.
It is estimated that 39,000 Australians die from malignant disease yearly. Of these, 60% to 88% of advanced cancer patients suffer xerostomia, the subjective feeling of mouth dryness. Xerostomia has significant physical, social and psychological consequences which compromise function and quality of life. Pilocarpine is one treatment for xerostomia. Most studies have shown some variation in individual response to pilocarpine, in terms of dose used, and timing and extent of response.
We will determine a population estimate of the efficacy of pilocarpine drops (6 mg) three times daily compared to placebo in relieving dry mouth in palliative care (PC) patients. A secondary aim is to assess individual patients’ response to pilocarpine and provide reports detailing individual response to patients and their treating clinician.
Aggregated n-of-1 trials (3 cycle, double blind, placebo-controlled crossover trials using standardized measures of effect). Individual trials will identify which patients respond to the medication. To produce a population estimate of a treatment effect, the results of all cycles will be aggregated.
Managing dry mouth with treatment supported by the best possible evidence will improve functional status of patients, and improve quality of life for patients and carers. Using n-of-1 trials will accelerate the rate of accumulation of high-grade evidence to support clinical therapies used in PC.
Trial registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry Number: 12610000840088.
PMCID: PMC3827871  PMID: 24176001
Pilocarpine; n-of-1 trial; Palliative care; Xerostomia; Advanced cancer
15.  Preliminary estimation of the prevalence of chemotherapy-induced dysgeusia in Japanese patients with cancer 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:38.
Although dysgeusia is a common adverse event in chemotherapy patients; it has not been evaluated using objective methods, and its prevalence and frequency have not been quantified.
Salt-impregnated taste strips were used to objectively assess dysgeusia in patients receiving chemotherapy at Akita University (n = 38) and those off chemotherapy (n = 9). Participant characteristics, and ongoing and previous chemotherapies were evaluated, and their associations with dysgeusia analyzed.
Dysgeusia developed in 38.8% (14/38) of chemotherapy patients, and was most prevalent in patients receiving 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or its oral analogs (48.1%, 13/27). Particularly, dysgeusia developed in 55.6% (10/18) of patients receiving oral 5-FU analogs; however, prevalence in patients receiving and off chemotherapy was not significantly different. Patients aged ≥70 years also tended to experience dysgeusia (75.0%, 6/8).
Association with dysgeusia may be higher for some chemotherapeutic drugs. Dysgeusia should be routinely assessed in chemotherapy patients with objective methods such as paper strips; interventions for its prevention may be required.
PMCID: PMC3816153  PMID: 24165041
Taste alteration; Dysgeusia; Quality of life; Oral 5-fluorouracil analogs; Paper test strip
16.  A randomised, multicentre clinical trial of specialised palliative care plus standard treatment versus standard treatment alone for cancer patients with palliative care needs: the Danish palliative care trial (DanPaCT) protocol 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:37.
Advanced cancer patients experience considerable symptoms, problems, and needs. Early referral of these patients to specialised palliative care (SPC) could improve their symptoms and problems.
The Danish Palliative Care Trial (DanPaCT) investigates whether patients with metastatic cancer, who report palliative needs in a screening, will benefit from being referred to ‘early SPC’.
DanPaCT is a clinical, multicentre, parallel-group superiority trial with balanced randomisation (1:1). The planned sample size is 300 patients. Patients are randomised to specialised palliative care (SPC) plus standard treatment versus standard treatment. Consecutive patients from oncology departments are screened for palliative needs with a questionnaire if they: a) have metastatic cancer; b) are 18 years or above; and c) have no prior contact with SPC. Patients with palliative needs (i.e. symptoms/problems exceeding a certain threshold) according to the questionnaire are eligible. The primary outcome is the change in the patients’ primary need (the most severe symptom/problem measured with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30)). Secondary outcomes are other symptoms/problems (EORTC QLQ-C30), satisfaction with health care (FAMCARE P-16), anxiety and depression (the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale), survival, and health care costs.
Only few trials have investigated the effects of SPC. To our knowledge DanPaCT is the first trial to investigate screening based ‘early SPC’ for patients with a broad spectrum of cancer diagnosis.
Trial registration
Current controlled Trials NCT01348048
PMCID: PMC3874751  PMID: 24152880
Palliative care; End-of-life care; Advanced cancer; Randomised clinical trial; Quality of life; Needs assessment; Patient satisfaction; Cost-effectiveness; Study protocol
17.  Evaluation of the living with hope program for rural women caregivers of persons with advanced cancer 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:36.
Hope has been identified as a key psychosocial resource among family caregivers to manage and deal with the caregiver experience. The Living with Hope Program is a self-administered intervention that consists of watching an international award winning Living with Hope film and participating in a two week hope activity (“Stories of the Present”). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of the Living with Hope Program on self-efficacy [General Self-Efficacy Scale], loss and grief [Non-Death Revised Grief Experience Inventory], hope [Herth Hope Index] and quality of life [Short-Form 12 version 2 (SF-12v2)] in rural women caring for persons with advanced cancer and to model potential mechanisms through which changes occurred.
A time-series embedded mixed method design was used, with quantitative baseline outcome measures repeated at day 7, day 14, and 3, 6 and 12 months. Qualitative data from the hope activity informed the quantitative data. Thirty-six participants agreed to participate with 22 completing all data collection. General estimating equations were used to analyze the data.
Herth Hope Index scores (p=0.05) had increased significantly from baseline at day 7. General Self Efficacy Scale scores were significantly higher than baseline at all data time points. To determine the mechanisms of the Living with Hope Program through which changes occurred, results of the data analysis suggested that as General Self Efficacy Scale scores increased (p<0.001) and Non-death Revised Grief Experience Inventory scores decreased (p=0.01) Herth Hope Index scores increased. In addition as Herth Hope Index scores increased (p<0.001) and Non-death Revised Grief Experience Inventory scores decreased (p=0.01), SF-12v2 mental health summary scores increased. Qualitative data suggested that through the hope activity (Stories of the Present) the participants were able to find positives and hope in their experience.
The Living with Hope Program has potential to increase hope and improve quality of life for rural women caregivers of persons with advanced cancer. The possible mechanisms by which changes in hope and quality of life occur are by decreasing loss and grief and increasing self-efficacy.
Trial registrations
Registration, NCT01081301.
PMCID: PMC3852040  PMID: 24106841
Hope; Caregivers; Palliative care; Intervention
18.  'My dreams are shuttered down and it hurts lots’–a qualitative study of palliative care needs and their management by HIV outpatient services in Kenya and Uganda 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:35.
Despite the huge burden of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, there is little evidence of the multidimensional needs of patients with HIV infection to inform the person-centred care across physical, psychological, social and spiritual domains stipulated in policy guidance. We aimed to describe the problems experienced by people with HIV in Kenya and Uganda and the management of these problems by HIV outpatient services.
Local researchers conducted in depth qualitative interviews with HIV patients, caregivers and service staff at 12 HIV outpatient facilities (6 in Kenya, 6 in Uganda). Interview data were analysed thematically.
189 people were interviewed (83 patients, 47 caregivers, 59 staff). The impact of pain and symptoms and their causes (HIV, comorbidities, treatment side-effects) were described. Staff reported that effective pain relief was not always available, particularly in Kenya. Psychosocial distress (isolation, loneliness, worry) was exacerbated by stigma and poverty, and detrimentally affected adherence. Illness led to despair and hopelessness. Provision of counselling was reported, but spiritual support appeared to be less common. Neither pain nor psychosocial problems were routinely reported to service staff. Collaboration with local hospices and income-generation activities for patients were highlighted as useful.
The findings demonstrate the multiple and interrelated problems associated with living with HIV and how psychosocial and spiritual distress can contribute to 'total pain’ in this population. In line with the palliative care approach, HIV care requires holistic care and assessment that take into account psychological, socioeconomic and spiritual distress alongside improved access to pain-relieving drugs, including opioids.
PMCID: PMC3851824  PMID: 24098941
Kenya; Uganda; HIV; Distress; Experience; Pain; Drug availability; Qualitative research
19.  Public awareness and attitudes toward palliative care in Northern Ireland 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:34.
The World Health Organisation recognises palliative care as a global public health issue and this is reflected at strategic level. Despite this, palliative care may not be universally welcomed. Surveys over the last decade have suggested that the general public have a lack of knowledge and negative perceptions towards palliative care. A detailed and comprehensive understanding of public views is needed in order to target education and policy campaigns and to manage future needs, expectations and resourcing of end of life care. The aim of this study was to establish the current levels of awareness and attitudes towards palliative care among the general public in Northern Ireland.
A community-based cross-sectional survey with a population of 3,557 individuals aged over 17 years was performed. Information was collected using a structured questionnaire consisting of 17 items. Open questions were subject to content analysis; closed questions were subject to descriptive statistics with inferential testing as appropriate.
A total of 600 responses were obtained (response rate 17%). Responses indicated limited knowledge about palliative care. Female gender and previous experience influenced awareness in a positive direction. Respondents who worked in healthcare themselves or who had a close relative or friend who had used a palliative care service were more aware of palliative care and the availability of different palliative care services. Findings reveal the preferred place of care was the family home. The main barriers to raising awareness were fear, lack of interaction with health services and perception of lack of resources. A number of strategies to enhance awareness, access and community involvement in palliative care were suggested.
Public awareness of the concept of palliative care and of service availability remains insufficient for widespread effective and appropriate palliative care to be accepted as the norm. In particular, those without previous family-related experiences lack awareness. This has implications for palliative care service provision and policy. An increased awareness of palliative care is needed, in order to improve knowledge of and access to services when required, empower individuals, involve communities and ultimately to realise the objectives contained within international strategies for palliative and end-of-life care.
PMCID: PMC3848719  PMID: 24044631
Palliative care; General public; Awareness; Questionnaire; Survey
20.  Palliative care research on the island of Ireland over the last decade: a systematic review and thematic analysis of peer reviewed publications 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:33.
As palliative care research continues to expand across Europe, and the world, questions exist about the nature and type of research undertaken in addition to the research priorities for the future. This systematic review, which is the first stage of a larger scale study to identify the research priorities for palliative care on the island of Ireland, examined palliative care research conducted on the island over the last decade.
A comprehensive search strategy was implemented and strict eligibility criteria were applied in order to identify relevant peer-reviewed journal articles. Inclusion criteria were all of the palliative care studies undertaken on the island of Ireland and published between January 2002 and May 2012. These were assessed in relation to year, setting, sample size, research methodology, and relevant findings.
412 publications were identified for screening and their abstracts obtained. After eliminating articles that did not meet the inclusion criteria, 151 remained for further analysis. A thematic analysis of 128 studies published between 2006 and 2012 revealed eight core themes: (1) specific groups/populations; (2) services and settings; (3) management of symptoms (physical, psychological, social); (4) bereavement; (5) communication and education; (6) death and dying; (7) spirituality; and (8) complementary and alternative medicine/intervention (CAM). There was an upward trend in the number of publications in palliative care research over the last ten years with over 72% of studies being published within the previous four years. A slightly higher number of studies were quantitative in nature (surveys, questionnaires, standardised assessments) followed by qualitative (individual and focus group interviews, case studies, documentary analysis and retrospective case note reviews), mixed methods, and systematic reviews.
Whilst there has been a welcome growth in palliative care research across Ireland, this has largely been needs-based and small scale studies. In contrast, international researchers and decision makers recommend the need for more outcomes focused multidisciplinary research. An examination of palliative care research is an essential first step in seeking to develop future priority areas for further research, highlighting opportunities for future collaboration both nationally and internationally.
PMCID: PMC3848123  PMID: 24006932
Systematic review; Palliative care; Hospice care; End-of-life; Research
21.  A qualitative study examining the sustainability of shared care in the delivery of palliative care services in the community 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:32.
This paper focuses on the sustainability of existing palliative care teams that provide home-based care in a shared care model. For the purposes of this study, following Evashwick and Ory (2003), sustainability is understood and approached as the ability to continue the program over time. Understanding factors that influence the sustainability of teams and ways to mitigate these factors is paramount to improving the longevity and quality of service delivery models of this kind.
Using qualitative data collected in interviews, the aim of this study is twofold: (1) to explore the factors that affect the sustainability of the teams at three different scales, and; (2) based on the results of this study, to propose a set of recommendations that will contribute to the sustainability of PC teams.
Sustainability was conceptualized from two angles: internal and external. An overview of external sustainability was provided and the merging of data from all participant groups showed that the sustainability of teams was largely dependent on actors and organizations at the local (community), regional (Local Health Integration Network or LHIN) and provincial scales. The three scales are not self-contained or singular entities but rather are connected. Integration and collaboration within and between scales is necessary, as community capacity will inevitably reach its threshold without support of the province, which provides funding to the LHIN. While the community continues to advocate for the teams, in the long-term, they will need additional supports from the LHIN and province. The province has the authority and capacity to engrain its support for teams through a formal strategy. The recommendations are presented based on scale to better illustrate how actors and organizations could move forward.
This study may inform program and policy specific to strategic ways to improve the provision of team-based palliative home care using a shared care model, while simultaneously providing direction for team-based program delivery and sustainability for other jurisdictions.
PMCID: PMC3844373  PMID: 23984638
Shared care model; Palliative care services; Qualitative research; Scale; Community
22.  Novel open-source electronic medical records system for palliative care in low-resource settings 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:31.
The need for palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa is staggering: this region shoulders over 67% of the global burden of HIV/AIDS and cancer. However, provisions for these essential services remain limited and poorly integrated with national health systems in most nations. Moreover, the evidence base for palliative care in the region remains scarce. This study chronicles the development and evaluation of DataPall, an open-source electronic medical records system that can be used to track patients, manage data, and generate reports for palliative care providers in these settings.
DataPall was developed using design criteria encompassing both functional and technical objectives articulated by hospital leaders and palliative care staff at a leading palliative care center in Malawi. The database can be used with computers that run Windows XP SP 2 or newer, and does not require an internet connection for use. Subsequent to its development and implementation in two hospitals, DataPall was tested among both trained and untrained hospital staff populations on the basis of its usability with comparison to existing paper records systems as well as on the speed at which users could perform basic database functions. Additionally, all participants evaluated this program on a standard system usability scale.
In a study of health professionals in a Malawian hospital, DataPall enabled palliative care providers to find patients’ appointments, on average, in less than half the time required to locate the same record in current paper records. Moreover, participants generated customizable reports documenting patient records and comprehensive reports on providers’ activities with little training necessary. Participants affirmed this ease of use on the system usability scale.
DataPall is a simple, effective electronic medical records system that can assist in developing an evidence base of clinical data for palliative care in low resource settings. The system is available at no cost, is specifically designed to chronicle care in the region, and is catered to meet the technical needs and user specifications of such facilities.
PMCID: PMC3751569  PMID: 23941694
Palliative care; Electronic medical records system; Evidence-based medicine; Africa; Database
23.  Modelling the landscape of palliative care for people with dementia: a European mixed methods study 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:30.
Palliative care for people with dementia is often sub-optimal. This is partly because of the challenging nature of dementia itself, and partly because of system failings that are particularly salient in primary care and community services. There is a need to systematize palliative care for people with dementia, to clarify where changes in practice could be made.
To develop a model of palliative care for people with dementia that captures commonalities and differences across Europe, a technology development approach was adopted, using mixed methods including 1) critical synthesis of the research literature and policy documents, 2) interviews with national experts in policy, service organisation, service delivery, patient and carer interests, and research in palliative care, and 3) nominal groups of researchers tasked with synthesising data and modelling palliative care.
A generic model of palliative care, into which quality indicators can be embedded. The proposed model includes features deemed important for the systematisation of palliative care for people with dementia. These are: the division of labour amongst practitioners of different disciplines; the structure and function of care planning; the management of rising risk and increasing complexity; boundaries between disease-modifying treatment and palliative care and between palliative and end-of-life care; and the process of bereavement.
The co-design approach to developing a generic model of palliative care for people with dementia has placed the person needing palliative care within a landscape of services and professional disciplines. This model will be explored further in the intervention phase of the IMPACT project.
PMCID: PMC3751306  PMID: 23937891
24.  Feedback on end-of-life care in dementia: the study protocol of the FOLlow-up project 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:29.
End-of-life care in dementia in nursing homes is often found to be suboptimal. The Feedback on End-of-Life care in dementia (FOLlow-up) project tests the effectiveness of audit- and feedback to improve the quality of end-of-life care in dementia.
Nursing homes systematically invite the family after death of a resident with dementia to provide feedback using the End-of-Life in Dementia (EOLD) – instruments. Two audit- and feedback strategies are designed and tested in a three-armed Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT): a generic feedback strategy using cumulative EOLD-scores of a group of patients and a patient specific feedback strategy using EOLD-scores on a patient level. A total of 18 nursing homes, three groups of six homes matched on size, geographic location, religious affiliation and availability of a palliative care unit were randomly assigned to an intervention group or the control group. The effect on quality of care and quality of dying and the barriers and facilitators of audit- and feedback in the nursing home setting are evaluated using mixed-method analyses.
The FOLlow-up project is the first study to assess and compare the effect of two audit- and feedback strategies to improve quality of care and quality of dying in dementia. The results contribute to the development of practice guidelines for nursing homes to monitor and improve care outcomes in the realm of end-of-life care in dementia.
Trial registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register (NTR). Trial number: NTR3942
PMCID: PMC3751417  PMID: 23924229
End-of-life care; Satisfaction with care; Quality of care; Dementia; Nursing home; Quality indicators
25.  Challenges and strategies in the administration of a population based mortality follow-back survey design 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:28.
Population-based mortality follow-back survey designs have been used to collect information concerning end-of-life care from bereaved family members in several countries. In Canada, this design was recently employed to gather population-based information about the end-of-life care experience among adults in Nova Scotia as perceived by the decedent's family. In this article we describe challenges that emerged during the implementation of the study design and discuss resolutions strategies to help overcome them. Challenges encountered included the inability to directly contact potential participants, difficulties ascertaining eligibility, mailing strategy complications and the overall effect of these issues on response rate and subsequent sample size. Although not all challenges were amenable to resolution, strategies implemented proved beneficial to the overall process and resulted in surpassing the targeted sample size. The inability to directly contact potential participants is an increasing reality and limitations associated with this process best acknowledged during study development. Future studies should also consider addressing participant concerns pertaining to their eligibility and use of a more cost effective mailing strategy.
PMCID: PMC3750367  PMID: 23919380

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