Measuring the diffusion of palliative care in long-term care facilities – a death census
Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
BMC Palliative Care 2009, 8:1 doi:10.1186/1472-684X-8-1Published: 16 January 2009
The dissemination of palliative care for patients presenting complex chronic diseases at various stages has become an important matter of public health. A death census in Swiss long-term care facilities (LTC) was set up with the aim of monitoring the frequency of selected indicators of palliative care.
The survey covered 150 LTC facilities (105 nursing homes and 45 home health services), each of which was asked to complete a questionnaire for every non-accidental death over a period of six months. The frequency of 4 selected indicators of palliative care (resort to a specialized palliative care service, the administration of opiates, use of any pain measurement scale or other symptom measurement scale) was monitored in respect of the stages of care and analysed based on gender, age, medical condition and place of residence.
Overall, 1200 deaths were reported, 29.1% of which were related to cancer. The frequencies of each indicator varied according to the type of LTC, mostly regarding the administration of opiate. It appeared that the access to palliative care remained associated with cancer, terminal care and partly with age, whereas gender and the presence of mental disorders had no effect on the indicators. In addition, the use of drugs was much more frequent than the other indicators.
The profile of patients with access to palliative care must become more diversified. Among other recommendations, equal access to opiates in nursing homes and in home health services, palliative care at an earlier stage and the systematic use of symptom management scales when resorting to opiates have to become of prime concern.