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1.  Developing and testing a strategy to enhance a palliative approach and care continuity for people who have dementia: study overview and protocol 
BMC Palliative Care  2012;11:4.
Background
Typically, dementia involves progressive cognitive and functional deterioration, leading to death. A palliative approach recognizes the inevitable health decline, focusing on quality of life. The approach is holistic, proactive, supports the client and the family, and can be provided by the client's usual care team.
In the last months of life, distressing symptoms, support needs, and care transitions may escalate. This project trialed a strategy intended to support a consistent, high quality, palliative approach for people with dementia drawing close to death. The strategy was to implement two communities of practice, drawn primarily from service provider organizations across care sectors, supporting them to address practice change. Communities comprised practitioners and other health professionals with a passionate commitment to dementia palliative care and the capacity to drive practice enhancement within partnering organizations.
Project aims were to document: (i) changes driven by the communities of practice; (ii) changes in staff/practitioner characteristics during the study (knowledge of a palliative approach and dementia; confidence delivering palliative care; views on death and dying, palliative care, and a palliative approach for dementia); (iii) outcomes from perspectives of family carers, care providers, and community of practice members; (iv) the extent to which changes enhanced practice and care continuity; and (v) barriers to and facilitators of successful community of practice implementation.
Methods/design
This action research project was implemented over 14 months in 2010/11 in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia and regional Launceston, Tasmania. Each state based community of practice worked with the researchers to scope existing practice and its outcomes. The research team compiled a report of existing practice recommendations and resources. Findings of these two steps informed community of practice action plans and development of additional resources. Change implementation was recorded and explored in interviews, comparisons being made with practice recommendations. Changes in staff/practitioner characteristics were evaluated using survey data. Findings from semi structured interviews and survey administration established outcomes from perspectives of family carers, care providers, and community of practice members. Consideration of processes and outcomes, across the two state based settings, informed identification of barriers and facilitators. Community of practice reflections also informed study recommendations.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-4
PMCID: PMC3394215  PMID: 22471327
Dementia; Palliative care; Evidence translation; Action research
2.  Measuring dementia carers' unmet need for services - an exploratory mixed method study 
Background
To ensure carers of people with dementia receive support, community services increasingly use measures of caregiver (carer) burden to assess for unmet need. This study used Bradshaw's taxonomy of need to explore the link between measures of carer burden (normative need), service use (expressed need), and carer's stated need (felt need).
Methods
This mixed method exploratory study compared measures of carer burden with community services received and unmet needs, for 20 community-dwelling carer/care-recipient pairs.
Results
A simple one-item measure of carers' felt need for more services was significantly related to carer stress as measured on the GHQ-30. Qualitative data showed that there are many potential stressors for carers, other than those related to the care-giving role. We found a statistically significant rank correlation (p = 0.01) between carer's use of in-home respite and the care-recipient's cognitive and functional status which is likely to have been related to increased requirement for carer vigilance, effort and the isolation of spouse carers. Otherwise, there were no statistically significant relationships between carer burden or stress and level of service provision.
Conclusion
When carers are stressed or depressed, they can recognise that they would like more help from services, even if measures of carer burden and care recipient status do not clearly indicate unmet service needs. A question designed to elicit carer' felt need may be a better indicator of service need, and a red flag for recognising growing stress in carers of people with dementia. Assessment of service needs should recognise the fallibility of carer burden measures, given that carer stress may not only come from caring for someone with dementia, but can be significantly compounded by other life situations.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-122
PMCID: PMC2875230  PMID: 20465782

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