Department of Family Medicine, Section of Palliative Medicine, University of Manitoba, and Palliative Care Program, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, St. Boniface General Hospital, A8024-409 Tache Ave. Winnipeg, Manibota, Canada. email@example.com
The prevalence of constipation among patients in palliative care has varied in prior research, from 18% to 90%, depending on study factors.
The aim of this study was to describe and explore the prevalence and symptom distress of constipation, using different definitions of constipation, in patients admitted to specialized palliative care settings.
Data was collected in a cross-sectional survey from 485 patients in 38 palliative care units in Sweden. Variables were analyzed using logistic regression and summarized as odds ratio (OR).
The prevalence of constipation varied between 7% and 43%, depending on the definition used. Two constipation groups were found: (1) medical constipation group (MCG): =3 defecations/week, n=114 (23%) and (2) perceived constipation group (PCG): patients with a perception of being constipated in the last two weeks, n=171 (35%). Three subgroups emerged: patients with (1) only medical constipation (7%), (2) only perceived constipation (19%), and (3) both medical and perceived constipation (16%). There were no differences in symptom severity between groups; 71% of all constipated patients had severe constipation.
The prevalence of constipation may differ, depending on the definition used and how constipation is assessed. In this study we found two main groups and three subgroups, analyzed from the definitions of frequency of bowel movements and experience of being constipated. To be able to identify constipation, the patients' definition has to be further explored and assessed.
In Sweden, individuals affected by severe stroke are treated in specialized stroke units. In these units, patients are attended by a multiprofessional team with a focus on care in the acute phase of stroke, rehabilitation phase, and palliative phase. Caring for patients with such a large variety in condition and symptoms might be an extra challenge for the team. Today, there is a lack of knowledge in team experiences of the dilemmas that appear and the consequences that emerge. Therefore, the purpose of this article was to study ethical dilemmas, different approaches, and what consequences they had among healthcare professionals working with the dying patients with stroke in acute stroke units. Forty-one healthcare professionals working in a stroke team were interviewed either in focus groups or individually. The data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using content analysis. The ethical dilemmas that appeared were depending on "nondecisions" about palliative care or discontinuation of treatments. The lack of decision made the team members act based on their own individual skills, because of the absence of common communication tools. When a decision was made, the healthcare professionals had "problems holding to the decision." The devised and applied plans could be revalued, which was described as a setback to nondecisions again. The underlying problem and theme was "communication barriers," a consequence related to the absence of common skills and consensus among the value system. This study highlights the importance of palliative care knowledge and skills, even for patients experiencing severe stroke. To make a decision and to hold on to that is a presupposition in creating a credible care plan. However, implementing a common set of values based on palliative care with symptom control and quality of life might minimize the risk of the communication barrier that may arise and increases the ability to create a healthcare that is meaningful and dignified.
To date there has been a paucity of research examining whether a course in palliative care influences the clinical work. Therefore a half-day course was started for different professionals.
The aims of this study were to quantitatively and qualitatively explore professionals' experience of the usefulness and importance of such a course.
An evaluation study was used with two measurement points in the quantitative part; qualitative focus group interviews were conducted three times.
Data was collected in Sweden through structured and open-ended questions (n=355) and in focus group discussions (n=40).
The majority of participants were allied professionals (86%). Course evaluation immediately after the intervention showed high scores. At three months, 78% of the 86 participants who had cared for a dying patient since the course claimed that the course had been useful in their work. In addition, there were improvements regarding symptom management (37%), support to family members (36%), more frequent break point conversations (31%), and improved cooperation in the teams (26%). The qualitative analysis showed that the course made participants start to compare their own working experiences with the new knowledge. When returning to work, the participants feel strengthened by the the newly acquired knowledge, but the will to improve the care also led to frustration, as some of the participants described that they wanted to change routines in the care of the dying, but felt hindered.
The course was appreciated and useful in the professionals' work, but it also created problems.
We recently completed a grounded theory study examining nutritional care experiences in advanced cancer from the perspective of patients (n=13), families (n=23), and health care providers (n=11) (1). That work generated important information about adult family members' perceptions and behaviour regarding the nutritional care their terminally ill adult relative received while hospitalized on an inpatient palliative care unit. An overview of the inductively derived model that emerged from that work has been reported elsewhere (2). This article provides a more detailed description of one of the major sub-processes of the model regarding family member responses to declining oral intake and weight loss in a terminally ill relative-the sub-process of "fighting back: it's best to eat." The strategies family members use when fighting back, and the consequences of these strategies for patients, family members, and health care providers are reported. Implications for practice and research are provided.
Considerations of dignity are often raised in reference to the care of dying patients. However, little research that addresses this issue has been done. Our aim was to identify the extent to which dying patients perceive they are able to maintain a sense of dignity, and to ascertain how demographic and disease-specific variables relate to the issue of dignity in these individuals.
We did a cross-sectional study of a cohort of terminally ill patients with cancer, who had a life expectancy of less than 6 months. We enrolled 213 patients from two palliative care units in Winnipeg, Canada, and asked them to rate their sense of dignity. Our main outcome measures included: a 7-point sense of dignity item; the symptom distress scale; the McGill pain questionnaire; the index of independence in activities of daily living (IADL); a quality of life scale; a brief battery of self-report measures, including screening for desire for death, anxiety, hopelessness, and will to live; burden to others; and requirement for social support.
16 of 213 patients (7.5%; 95% CI 4-11) indicated that loss of dignity was a great concern. These patients were far more than likely than the rest of the cohort to report psychological distress and symptom distress, heightened dependency needs, and loss of will to live.
Loss of dignity is closely associated with certain types of distress often seen among the terminally ill. Preservation of dignity should be an overall aim of treatment and care in patients who are nearing death.
Comment In: Lancet. 2002 Dec 21-28;360(9350):1997-812504390
Comment In: Lancet. 2003 Mar 1;361(9359):78312620760
Deliberations on euthanasia are mostly theoretical, and often lack first-hand perspectives of the affected persons.
Sixty-six patients suffering from cancer in a palliative phase were interviewed about their perspectives of euthanasia in relation to autonomy. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using qualitative content analysis with no predetermined categories.
The informants expressed different positions on euthanasia, ranging from support to opposition, but the majority were undecided due to the complexity of the problem. The informants' perspectives on euthanasia in relation to autonomy focused on decision making, being affected by (1) power and (2) trust. Legalization of euthanasia was perceived as either (a) increasing patient autonomy by patient empowerment, or (b) decreasing patient autonomy by increasing the medical power of the health care staff, which could be frightening. The informants experienced dependence on others, and expressed various levels of trust in others' intentions, ranging from full trust to complete mistrust.
Dying cancer patients perceive that they cannot feel completely independent, which affects true autonomous decision making. Further, when considering legalization of euthanasia, the perspectives of patients fearing the effects of legalization should also be taken into account, not only those of patients opting for it.
Studies of patients who are terminally ill consistently identify strong associations between "sense of burden to others" and marked end-of-life distress. However, little research has addressed the issue of burden to others among patients nearing death. The aim of this study was to carefully examine "burden to others" and clarify its relationship with various psychosocial, physical, and existential issues arising in patients who are terminally ill. A cohort of 211 patients with end-stage cancer was assessed, using an assortment of validated psychometrics to document psychosocial, physical, and existential aspects of their end-of-life experience. This included an assessment of their sense of "burden to others." Forty percent of participants indicated a negligible sense of burden to others, scoring within the lowest quarter on an ordinal measure of "burden to others;" 25% scored within the second lowest quarter; 12% within the third quarter; and 23% within the highest or most severe range. The most highly correlated variables with "sense of burden to others" included depression (r=0.460; df=201, P
GOALS: (1). To describe what aspects are important when next-of-kin evaluate advanced palliative home care (APHC) and (2). to compare the expressed aspects and describe eventual differences among the three settings, which differed in terms of length of services, geographic location, and population size. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Four to 7 months after the patient's death (87% from cancer), 217 consecutive next-of-kin from three different settings in Sweden responded (response rate 86%) to three open-ended questions via a postal questionnaire. Qualitative content analysis was performed. MAIN RESULTS: Service aspects and comfort emerged as main categories. The staff's competence, attitude and communication, accessibility, and spectrum of services were valued service aspects. Comfort, such as feeling secure, was another important aspect and it concerned the next-of-kin themselves, the patients, and the families. Additionally, comfort was related to interactional issues such as being in the center and sharing caring with the staff. The actual place of care (i.e., being at home) added to the perceived comfort. Of the respondents, 87% described positive aspects of APHC and 28% negative aspects. No major differences were found among the different settings. CONCLUSIONS: Next-of-kin incorporate service aspects and aspects relating to the patient's and family's comfort when evaluating APHC. The importance of these aspects is discussed in relation to the content of palliative care and potential goals.
Although previous research has indicated some recurrent themes and similarities between what patients from different cultures regard as a good death, the concept is complex and there is lack of studies from the Nordic countries. The aim of this study was to explore the perception of a good death in dying cancer patients in Sweden.
Interviews were conducted with 66 adult patients with cancer in the palliative phase who were recruited from home care and hospital care. Interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Participants viewed death as a process. A good death was associated with living with the prospect of imminent death, preparing for death and dying comfortably, e.g., dying quickly, with independence, with minimised suffering and with social relations intact. Some were comforted by their belief that death is predetermined. Others felt uneasy as they considered death an end to existence. Past experiences of the death of others influenced participants' views of a good death.
Healthcare staff caring for palliative patients should consider asking them to describe what they consider a good death in order to identify goals for care. Exploring patients' personal experience of death and dying can help address their fears as death approaches.