This study examined activities related to the provision of psychosocial care by counsellors in the hospice/palliative care setting. A qualitative design using written reports was used in an urban Canadian hospice/palliative care program. A convenient sample of 13 counsellors indicated the activities they typically performed in their work with patients and families. Thematic analysis of the activities directly related to patient and family care was performed and then validated by presenting these activities back to the counsellors in a group setting. Seven themes resulted: 1) companioning; 2) psychosocial assessment, planning, and evaluation; 3) counselling interventions; 4) facilitation and advocacy; 5) patient and family education; 6) consultation and reporting; and 7) team support. These thematic findings confirmed those of previous studies and also highlighted two additional findings. Team support was seen as an activity that directly affected client care, and there was a strong emphasis on the activity of companioning the dying and their families. Also discussed are implications of these results, as well as suggestions for further research.
More than 70% of seriously ill patients with cancer suffer from xerostomia and the associated problems of swallowing, chewing and speaking. This study aims to investigate whether treatment with acupuncture is a viable option for hospice patients with xerostomia. During a 2-year period, 117 patients were assessed for xerostomia. Eighty-two patients were found to have moderate xerostomia. Sixty-seven fulfilled the criteria for inclusion. Of these, 14 were included but only eight completed the study. Ten acupuncture treatments were given during a 5-week period. The effect of acupuncture was measured using a visual analogue scale, and by measuring the saliva production before and after the series of treatment. The results show that all the patients experienced alleviation of dryness of the mouth and the associated symptoms, and thus benefited from the acupuncture treatment. However, conducting a 5-week acupuncture intervention study is not feasible at an inpatient hospice due to the patients being too close to death.
In 39 of 100 cancer patients admitted to the palliative care unit at Edmonton General Hospital, the presence of delirium during their last week of life required psychotropic drug treatment. In 10 of the 39 delirious patients, symptoms were only controllable by sedation; this was achieved in 9 patients by a continuous subcutaneous infusion of midazolam. Although haloperidol is considered to be the treatment of choice in agitated, delirious cancer patients, our data suggest that palliative care treatment strategies for these patients may be different.
It is increasingly common that cancer patients are cared for at home at the end of life, with help from advanced home care teams. This may have positive implications for cancer patients and their families, but it may also be burdensome to the family caregivers with implications for their health and well-being. This qualitative study was therefore initiated to prospectively explore how family caregivers reason about their expectations of providing end-of-life care at home for relatives with cancer, enrolled in advanced palliative home care units. Ten interviews were conducted with 11 family caregivers at enrollment to the home care unit. A form of constant comparative analysis was used to generate two main themes from the data. One theme concerned the role transition into becoming a family caregiver, whereas the other theme relates to the transition to a new life situation of the caregiver (him/herself). The family caregivers describe themselves as the persons primarily bearing responsibility and providing care for their dying relatives. They were found to have many concerns about their own situation, especially in regard to issues temporally after the death of the patient, but seemed to have few expected sources of support related to these concerns. Professional support is described as expected primarily for care-related tasks, although hopes may be expressed about support in other areas. The distinction between resources described as existing in theory and those used in practice also are apparent in analysis of the interviews. If home care is to be a positive alternative to hospital care, individual expectations should be considered when planning supportive care.
Canuck Place Children's Hospice, a family-centered pediatric hospice in Vancouver, Canada, provides family support and respite, pain and symptom management, and end-of-life care. One of the goals of pediatric hospice palliative care is to create an environment that supports a normal way of life and enhances quality of life. At Canuck Place, a unique school program for children with progressive life-threatening illnesses has been set up to meet this goal. This article describes the Canuck Place educational program, gives insights into the importance and challenges of providing a complete school experience, and discusses the expanded role of the teacher in the pediatric hospice setting.
A Swedish widowhood study revealed that four out of ten widows regarded the pre-loss period more stressful than the post-loss. The present investigation of close relatives to patients dying from cancer (using interviews and the Anticipatory Grief Scale) found that preparatory grief involves much emotional stress, as intense preoccupation with the dying, longing for his/her former personality, loneliness, tearfulness, cognitive dysfunction, irritability, anger and social withdrawal, and a need to talk. Psychological status was bad one by every fifth. However, the relatives mostly stated adjustment and ability to mobilize strength to cope with the situation. The results suggest development of support and guiding programs also for the anticipatory period.