Thursday, 5 June 2008

Palliative & Supportive Care, Mar 2008, vol. 6, no. 1

Clinical evaluation of the Mood and Symptom Questionnaire (MSQ) in a day therapy unit in a palliative support centre in the United Kingdom.
p. 51-9
Chapman-Elizabeth, Whale-Judith, Landy-Annette, Hughes-David, Saunders-Margaret.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the use of the Mood and Symptom Questionnaire (MSQ) within a program of structured psychosocial interventions in a Supportive and Palliative Care Center. Palliative care patients have a range of psychological symptoms as well as physical symptoms. Considerable expertise in controlling pain and fear of pain, other physical symptoms, and psychosocial distress has been built up in hospices and palliative care units. This expertise can be used even at late stages in the patient's illness to improve quality of life. METHOD: We evaluated the usefulness of the MSQ to record patient responses, as an aid to patient/staff discussions, and as a staff- training tool. The questionnaire consisted of visual analog scales completed by the patient with a staff member present. Using the tool increased the opportunities for staff and patients to discuss problematic psychosocial issues. Where possible, we obtained data at two time points and compared the responses. RESULTS: The MSQ was rapidly accepted as a clinical tool in the day therapy setting by staff and the patients. The process of completing the questionnaire encouraged patients to face and discuss difficult issues. Discussion of the issues raised on the questionnaire had a wider effect, influencing interactions and communications through the unit and facilitating wider discussion of other nonpain symptoms. The medical psychotherapist associated with the unit used the MSQ responses as a training tool to increase staff awareness and knowledge and understanding of psychological issues related to the patients' total pain experience by discussing the questionnaires with them. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The use of this tool helped to identify some psychological issues that proved relatively straightforward to address once uncovered. Patients benefited from this opportunity when their remaining time was relatively short. Their quality of life at the end of their lives was improved.

End-of-life care in nursing home settings: do race or age matter?
p. 21-7
Reynolds-Kimberly-S, Hanson-Laura-C, Henderson-Martha, Steinhauser- Karen-E.
OBJECTIVE: One-quarter of all U.S. chronic-disease deaths occur in nursing homes, yet few studies examine palliative care quality in these settings. This study tests whether racial and/or age-based differences in end-of-life care exist in these institutional settings. METHODS: We abstracted residents' charts (N = 1133) in 12 nursing homes. Researchers collected data on indicators of palliative care in two domains of care--advance care planning and pain management--and on residents' demographic and health status variables. Analyses tested for differences by race and age. RESULTS: White residents were more likely than minorities to have DNR orders (69.5% vs. 37.3%), living wills (39% vs. 5%), and health care proxies (36.2% vs. 11.8%; p < .001 for each). Advance directives were highly and positively correlated with age. In-depth advance care planning discussions between residents, families, and health care providers were rare for all residents, irrespective of demographic characteristics. Nursing staff considered older residents to have milder and less frequent pain than younger residents. We found no disparities in pain management based on race. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: To the extent that advance care planning improves care at the end of life, racial minorities in nursing homes are disadvantaged compared to their white fellow residents. Focusing on in-depth discussions of values and goals of care can improve palliative care for all residents and may help to ameliorate racial disparities in end-of-life care. Staff should consider residents of all ages as appropriate recipients of advance care planning efforts and should be cognizant of the fact that individuals of all ages can experience pain. Nursing homes may do a better job than other health care institutions in eliminating racial disparities in pain management.

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