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      Place of Death: Correlations With Quality of Life of Patients With Cancer and Predictors of Bereaved Caregivers' Mental Health

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          To determine whether the place of death for patients with cancer is associated with patients' quality of life (QoL) at the end of life (EOL) and psychiatric disorders in bereaved caregivers.

          Patients and Methods

          Prospective, longitudinal, multisite study of patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers (n = 342 dyads). Patients were followed from enrollment to death, a median of 4.5 months later. Patients' QoL at the EOL was assessed by caregiver report within 2 weeks of death. Bereaved caregivers' mental health was assessed at baseline and 6 months after loss with the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, and the Prolonged Grief Disorder interview.


          In adjusted analyses, patients with cancer who died in an intensive care unit (ICU) or hospital experienced more physical and emotional distress and worse QoL at the EOL (all P ≤ .03), compared with patients who died at home with hospice. ICU deaths were associated with a heightened risk for posttraumatic stress disorder, compared with home hospice deaths (21.1% [four of 19] v 4.4% [six of 137]; adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 5.00; 95% CI, 1.26 to 19.91; P = .02), after adjustment for caregivers' preexisting psychiatric illnesses. Similarly, hospital deaths were associated with a heightened risk for prolonged grief disorder (21.6% [eight of 37] v 5.2% [four of 77], AOR, 8.83; 95% CI, 1.51 to 51.77; P = .02), compared with home hospice deaths.


          Patients with cancer who die in a hospital or ICU have worse QoL compared with those who die at home, and their bereaved caregivers are at increased risk for developing psychiatric illness. Interventions aimed at decreasing terminal hospitalizations or increasing hospice utilization may enhance patients' QoL at the EOL and minimize bereavement-related distress.

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          Most cited references44

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          A new method of classifying prognostic comorbidity in longitudinal studies: Development and validation

          The objective of this study was to develop a prospectively applicable method for classifying comorbid conditions which might alter the risk of mortality for use in longitudinal studies. A weighted index that takes into account the number and the seriousness of comorbid disease was developed in a cohort of 559 medical patients. The 1-yr mortality rates for the different scores were: "0", 12% (181); "1-2", 26% (225); "3-4", 52% (71); and "greater than or equal to 5", 85% (82). The index was tested for its ability to predict risk of death from comorbid disease in the second cohort of 685 patients during a 10-yr follow-up. The percent of patients who died of comorbid disease for the different scores were: "0", 8% (588); "1", 25% (54); "2", 48% (25); "greater than or equal to 3", 59% (18). With each increased level of the comorbidity index, there were stepwise increases in the cumulative mortality attributable to comorbid disease (log rank chi 2 = 165; p less than 0.0001). In this longer follow-up, age was also a predictor of mortality (p less than 0.001). The new index performed similarly to a previous system devised by Kaplan and Feinstein. The method of classifying comorbidity provides a simple, readily applicable and valid method of estimating risk of death from comorbid disease for use in longitudinal studies. Further work in larger populations is still required to refine the approach because the number of patients with any given condition in this study was relatively small.
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            Risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms in family members of intensive care unit patients.

            Intensive care unit (ICU) admission of a relative is a stressful event that may cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Factors associated with these symptoms need to be identified. For patients admitted to 21 ICUs between March and November 2003, we studied the family member with the main potential decision-making role. Ninety days after ICU discharge or death, family members completed the Impact of Event Scale (which evaluates the severity of post-traumatic stress reactions), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and 36-item Short-Form General Health Survey during a telephone interview. Linear regression was used to identify factors associated with the risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Interviews were obtained for family members of 284 (62%) of the 459 eligible patients. Post-traumatic stress symptoms consistent with a moderate to major risk of PTSD were found in 94 (33.1%) family members. Higher rates were noted among family members who felt information was incomplete in the ICU (48.4%), who shared in decision making (47.8%), whose relative died in the ICU (50%), whose relative died after end-of-life decisions (60%), and who shared in end-of-life decisions (81.8%). Severe post-traumatic stress reaction was associated with increased rates of anxiety and depression and decreased quality of life. Post-traumatic stress reaction consistent with a high risk of PTSD is common in family members of ICU patients and is the rule among those who share in end-of-life decisions. Research is needed to investigate PTSD rates and to devise preventive and early-detection strategies.
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              Family perspectives on end-of-life care at the last place of care.

              Over the past century, nursing homes and hospitals increasingly have become the site of death, yet no national studies have examined the adequacy or quality of end-of-life care in institutional settings compared with deaths at home. To evaluate the US dying experience at home and in institutional settings. Mortality follow-back survey of family members or other knowledgeable informants representing 1578 decedents, with a 2-stage probability sample used to estimate end-of-life care outcomes for 1.97 million deaths from chronic illness in the United States in 2000. Informants were asked via telephone about the patient's experience at the last place of care at which the patient spent more than 48 hours. Patient- and family-centered end-of-life care outcomes, including whether health care workers (1) provided the desired physical comfort and emotional support to the dying person, (2) supported shared decision making, (3) treated the dying person with respect, (4) attended to the emotional needs of the family, and (5) provided coordinated care. For 1059 of 1578 decedents (67.1%), the last place of care was an institution. Of 519 (32.9%) patients dying at home represented by this sample, 198 (38.2%) did not receive nursing services; 65 (12.5%) had home nursing services, and 256 (49.3%) had home hospice services. About one quarter of all patients with pain or dyspnea did not receive adequate treatment, and one quarter reported concerns with physician communication. More than one third of respondents cared for by a home health agency, nursing home, or hospital reported insufficient emotional support for the patient and/or 1 or more concerns with family emotional support, compared with about one fifth of those receiving home hospice services. Nursing home residents were less likely than those cared for in a hospital or by home hospice services to always have been treated with respect at the end of life (68.2% vs 79.6% and 96.2%, respectively). Family members of patients receiving hospice services were more satisfied with overall quality of care: 70.7% rated care as "excellent" compared with less than 50% of those dying in an institutional setting or with home health services (P<.001). Many people dying in institutions have unmet needs for symptom amelioration, physician communication, emotional support, and being treated with respect. Family members of decedents who received care at home with hospice services were more likely to report a favorable dying experience.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Clinical Oncology
                American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
                October 10 2010
                October 10 2010
                : 28
                : 29
                : 4457-4464
                [1 ]From the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Harvard Medical School; and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.
                © 2010


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