Monday, November 24, 2008

Hospice Care Perceptions of Nursing Home Staff

In my book “Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes,” there is a chapter titled “Healthier Hospice.” This chapter gives detailed explanations, based on my research and experiences as a hospice volunteer, regarding ways to improve hospice services in general. Included are variables that can improve hospice implementation in nursing homes. Nursing home staff members who are focused on curing patients may not embrace the hospice philosophy of non-curative care. It is critical that they commit to enhancing and maintaining their expertise in certain hospice practices.

The quality of end-of-life care for any patient depends on the context in which the care is given. In the context of a nursing home, perceptions of staff members regarding the hospice philosophy and the implementation of that philosophy greatly impact a potential hospice patients’ experience. This includes the referral or non-referral of patients to hospice care and the timing of those referrals.

In a study at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, an understanding of factors influencing hospice referrals, nonreferrals, and timing of referrals was researched. Cross sections of staff members from seven nursing homes and two hospices were interviewed with the following results:

1) Nursing home staff members’ recognition of terminal decline, beliefs about hospice, and the initiatives they took “significantly influenced” patients’ referrals to hospice care and the timing of their referrals.

2) When death was perceived as unexpected (familiar signs not recognized by staff members), hospice referrals were delayed.

3) When nursing home staff members believed that hospice care was only for a crisis at the end of life or that hospice care did not add to nursing home care, hospice referrals were delayed.

4) Patients received longer hospice care when staff members believed hospice care complemented nursing home care and when staff members took the initiative to raise the option of hospice care.

This study confirms how important ongoing hospice training is for nursing home staff members. I emphasize ongoing because, in my experience as a hospice volunteer, regular staff turnover demands this. Without ongoing training, the quality of end-of-life care for potential hospice patients is jeopardized.

You can read more details about this important study here.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”

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