Latest Australian Research

The following lists palliative care research primarily conducted by Australian research groups. The list is based on application of the CareSearch search filter for palliative care to identify articles held within the PubMed database and corresponding to the strongest evidence. Articles have been selected based on relevance and new articles are added on a weekly basis.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, the aim is to keep the community informed by providing a snapshot of recent research findings and planned studies in the Australian setting.

 

17 March 2020

Improving palliative and end-of-life care for rural and remote Australians.

Wenham S, Cumming M, Saurman E.

Recent reports highlight an inconsistent provision of palliative and end-of-life (palliative) care across Australia, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas. Palliative care improves quality of life and the experience of dying, and all people should have equitable access to quality needs-based care as they approach and reach the end of their lives. A palliative approach to care is crucial in rural and remote Australia where there is a reliance for such care on generalist providers amid the challenges of a limited workforce, poorer access, and vast geography. This article describes the development and implementation of the Far West NSW Palliative and End-of-Life Model of Care, a systematic solution that could drive improvement in the provision of a quality palliative approach to care and support from any clinician in a timely manner, for patients, their families and carers anywhere.

17 March 2020

What Are the Factors Identifying Caregivers Who Need Help in Managing Medications for Palliative Care Patients at Home? A Population Survey.

Tait P, Cuthbertson E, Currow DC.

BACKGROUND:
For most people, the last 12 months of life are spent living in the community, with the support of family and friends for a number of caregiving functions. Previous research has found that managing medicines is challenging for caregivers. Currently there is little information describing which caregivers may struggle with tasks associated with managing a loved one's medicines.

AIM:
The aim of this study was to identify factors that flag caregivers who are likely to experience problems when managing someone else's medications.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS:
The annual South Australian Health Omnibus Survey provides a face-to-face, cross-sectional, whole-of-population view of health care. Structured interviews, including questions covering palliative care and end-of-life care, were conducted with 14,625 residents in their own homes.

RESULTS:
Of the 1068 respondents who had provided care for someone who died of a terminal illness in the last five years, 7.4% identified that additional support with medicine management would have been beneficial. In addition, three factors were predictive of the need for additional support in managing medicines: aged <65 years; lower household income; and living in a metropolitan region.

CONCLUSION:
The findings of this study provide insights to inform the development of palliative care service models to support informal caregivers in the management of medications for people with a life-limiting illness.

17 March 2020

Stringent Control of Opioids: Sound Public Health Measures, but a Step Too Far in Palliative Care?

Pinkerton R, Mitchell G, Hardy J.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:
Opioids are the only class of drug with the proven ability to control severe pain. The introduction of stringent opioid prescribing restrictions has inevitably impacted upon the ability of those prescribing opioids for advanced life-limited disease to practice as previously and could limit the supply of adequate pain relief to patients with cancer. This review considers the evidence that symptom management of patients with advanced cancer contributes to the "opioid problem" and whether there is adequate recognition of the risks involved.

RECENT FINDINGS:
The literature suggests that the risk of opioid abuse is low in the palliative care population as is the risk of legal consequences for doctors prescribing opioids at the end of life. However, as many patients with cancer are living longer or surviving with chronic pain, palliative care physicians must be cognisant not only of the risks of long term opioid use but also of the risk of opioid misuse. Adherence to evidence or consensus-based guidelines is necessary to avoid inappropriate prescribing. In palliative care, it is appropriate not only to exercise a reasonable degree of opioid control and surveillance, primarily for the good of society, but also to ensure that the ability to treat pain in patients with advanced malignant disease is not compromised.

2 March 2020

Home-based rehabilitation in inoperable non-small cell lung cancer-the patient experience.

Edbrooke L, Denehy L, Granger CL, Kapp S, Aranda S.

PURPOSE:
Exercise is important in lung cancer, yet most people do not meet the physical activity guidelines. The aim of this study was to characterise the views and experiences of participants with inoperable lung cancer who completed a home-based rehabilitation program.

METHODS:
Ninety-two participants were recruited (45 intervention group [IG], 47 usual care). Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants randomised to the IG of a trial of home-based exercise, behaviour change and symptom management. Data were independently coded by two researchers, cross-checked and analysed using content analysis with a summary of arising themes.

RESULTS:
Of the IG (25/45), 55% were interviewed: mean (SD) age 67 (13) years; male 52%; disease stage n (%) III = 9 (36), IV = 11 (44); radical treatment intent n (%) 13 (52). The majority of participants reported program benefits, both in the physical domain (reduced sedentary time and improved strength, fitness and function) and the mental domain (motivation to keep healthy, preventing boredom). Support to self-manage symptoms was well received and many participants reported increased confidence in managing their symptoms. Exercise enablers included having expert health professional support; motivation to be stronger and better prepared for future challenges; and having an achievable and familiar program that was monitored. Treatment side-effects, pain from comorbidities and the weather were exercise barriers. For the majority of participants the use of a Fitbit™ activity tracker, text message exercise reminders and an exercise diary helped to promote adherence.

CONCLUSIONS:
This home-based rehabilitation program was acceptable to most participants with multiple benefits reported including improved fitness, motivation and ability to manage symptoms.

2 March 2020

Assessing quality of life in palliative care settings: head-to-head comparison of four patient-reported outcome measures (EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL, FACT-Pal, FACT-Pal-14, FACT-G7).

King MT, Agar M, Currow DC, Hardy J, Fazekas B, McCaffrey N.

PURPOSE:
Head-to-head comparison of reliability, validity and responsiveness of four patient-reported outcome measures (PROMS) suitable for assessing health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in palliative care settings: EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL, FACT-G7, FACIT-Pal and short-form FACIT-Pal-14.

METHODS:
Secondary analysis of two phase III randomised trials: ketamine for chronic cancer pain, octreotide for vomiting in inoperable malignant bowel obstruction. Sub-groups were defined by Australia-modified Karnofsky performance status (AKPS) and participants' global impression of change (GIC). Two aspects of reliability were assessed: internal consistency (Cronbach alpha, α); test-retest reliability (intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC)) of patients with stable AKPS and those who self-reported 'no change' on GIC. Construct validity was assessed via pre-determined hypotheses about sensitivity of PROM scores to AKPS groups and responsiveness of PROM change scores to GIC groups using analysis of variance.

RESULTS:
FACIT-Pal had better internal consistency (α ranged 0.59-0.80, 15/18 ≥ 0.70) than QLQ-C15-PAL (0.51-0.85, 4/8 ≥ 0.70) and FACT-G7 (0.54-0.64, 0/2 ≥ 0.70). FACIT scales had better test-retest reliability (FACIT-Pal 11/27 ICCs ≥ 0.70, FACT-G7 2/3 ICCs ≥ 0.70) than QLQ-C15-PAL (2/30 ICCs ≥ 0.70, 18/30 ≤ 0.5). Four scales demonstrated sensitivity to AKPS: QLQ-PAL-15 Physical Functioning and Global QOL, FACT-G Functional Wellbeing and FACIT-Pal Trial Outcome Index (TOI). Nine scales demonstrated responsiveness: three in the ketamine trial population (QLQ-C15-PAL Pain, FACIT-Pal-14, FACT-G7), six in the octreotide trial population (QLQ-C15-PAL Fatigue; FACIT-Pal PalCare, TOI, Total; FACT-G Physical Wellbeing and Total).

CONCLUSIONS:
No PROM was clearly superior, confirming that choosing the best PROM requires careful consideration of the research goals, patient population and the domains of HRQOL targeted by the intervention being investigated.

24 February 2020

Systematic review of growth factors and cytokines for the management of oral mucositis in cancer patients and clinical practice guidelines.

Logan RM, Al-Azri AR, Bossi P, Stringer AM, Joy JK, Soga Y, Ranna V, Vaddi A, Raber-Durlacher JE, Lalla RV, Cheng KKF, Elad S.

PURPOSE:
To update the clinical practice guidelines for the use of growth factors and cytokines for the prevention and/or treatment of oral mucositis (OM).

METHODS:
A systematic review was conducted by the Mucositis Study Group of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer/International Society of Oral Oncology (MASCC/ISOO). The body of evidence for each intervention, in each cancer treatment setting, was assigned an evidence level. The findings were added to the database used to develop the 2014 MASCC/ISOO clinical practice guidelines. Based on the evidence level, the following guidelines were determined: recommendation, suggestion, and no guideline possible.

RESULTS:
A total of 15 new papers were identified within the scope of this section and were merged with 51 papers that were reviewed in the previous guidelines update. Of these, 14, 5, 13, 2, and 1 were randomized controlled trials about KGF-1, G-CSF, GM-CSF, EGF, and erythropoietin, respectively. For the remaining agents there were no new RCTs. The previous recommendation for intravenous KGF-1 in patients undergoing autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) conditioned with high-dose chemotherapy and TBI-based regimens is confirmed. The previous suggestion against the use of topical GM-CSF for the prevention of OM in the setting of high-dose chemotherapy followed by autologous or allogeneic stem cell transplantation remains unchanged.

CONCLUSIONS:
Of the growth factors and cytokines studied for the management of OM, the evidence supports a recommendation in favor of KGF-1 and a suggestion against GM-CSF in certain clinical settings.

24 February 2020

'It's not what they were expecting': A systematic review and narrative synthesis of the role and experience of the hospital palliative care volunteer.

Bloomer MJ, Walshe C.

BACKGROUND:
Volunteers make a major contribution to palliative care but little is known specifically about hospital palliative care volunteers.

AIM:
The aim of this study was to understand the role and experience of hospital palliative care volunteers.

DESIGN:
Systematic review and narrative synthesis.

DATA SOURCES:
CINAHL, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, PubMed and three dissertation databases were searched from inception to June 2019. A forward and backward search of included papers in key journals was also undertaken. Records were independently assessed against inclusion criteria by authors. Included papers were assessed for quality, but none were excluded.

RESULTS:
In total, 14 papers were included. Hospital palliative care volunteers were mostly female, aged above 40 years, and training varied considerably. Volunteers faced unique challenges in supporting dying patients due to the nature of hospital care, rapid patient turnover and the once-off nature of support. Volunteer roles were diverse, with some providing hands-on care, but most focused on 'being with' the dying patient. Volunteers were appreciated for providing psychosocial support, seen as complementary to, rather than replacing the work of health professionals. Given volunteers were often required to work across multiple wards, establishing positive work relationships with health professionals was challenging. Divergent views about whether the volunteer was part of or external to the team impacted volunteers' experience and perceptions of the value of their contribution.

CONCLUSION:
Hospital palliative care volunteers face unique challenges in supporting terminally ill patients. Volunteer support in hospital settings is possible and appropriate, if sufficient support is available to mitigate the challenges associated with complex, high-acuity care.

24 February 2020

How and how much is spirituality discussed in palliative care consultations for advanced cancer patients with and without a question prompt list?

Best M, McArdle MB, Huang YJ, Clayton J, Butow P.

OBJECTIVE:
Patients want to discuss spirituality more with their doctors but feel disempowered. Question prompt lists (QPLs) assist conversations. This study assessed the impact of a QPL on spirituality discussions in Palliative Care (PC).

METHODS:
This was a sub-study of a trial in which PC patients were randomised to either receive a QPL prior to a consultation or not, to see whether its provision influenced advanced cancer patients'/caregivers' questions and discussion of topics relevant to end-of-life care during consultations with a PC physician. Consultations were recorded and transcribed. Transcriptions were analysed to examine the frequency and content of spirituality discussions. We conducted logistic regression to investigate the impact of the QPL and other predictors.

RESULTS:
174 patients participated. Spirituality was discussed in half the consultations. Patients receiving a QPL discussed spirituality 1.38 times more than controls. This finding did not reach statistical significance. First PC consultation and being asked about their concerns by the doctor were significant predictors of a spiritual discussion.

CONCLUSION:
Patients are more likely to discuss spirituality in their first PC consultation, and when their doctor asks them about their concerns.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS:
Doctors caring for patients at the end of life should routinely raise spiritual issues.

24 February 2020

Prevalence and correlates of advance care directives among older Australians accessing health and residential aged care services: multicentre audit study.

Detering KM, Buck K, Ruseckaite R, Kelly H, Sellars M, Sinclair C, Clayton JM, Nolte L.

OBJECTIVES:
It is important that the outcomes of advance care planning (ACP) conversations are documented and available at the point of care. Advance care directives (ACDs) are a subset of ACP documentation and refer to structured documents that are completed and signed by competent adults. Other ACP documentation includes informal documentation by the person or on behalf of the person by someone else (eg, clinician, family). The primary objectives were to describe the prevalence and correlates of ACDs among Australians aged 65 and over accessing health and residential aged care services. The secondary aim was to describe the prevalence of other ACP documentation.

DESIGN AND SETTING:
A prospective multicentre health record audit in general practices (n=13), hospitals (n=12) and residential aged care facilities (RACFs; n=26).

PARTICIPANTS:
503 people attending general practice, 574 people admitted to hospitals and 1208 people in RACFs.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:
Prevalence of one or more ACDs; prevalence of other ACP documentation.

RESULTS:
29.8% of people had at least one ACD on file. The majority were non-statutory documents (20.9%). ACD prevalence was significantly higher in RACFs (47.7%) than hospitals (15.7%) and general practices (3.2%) (p<0.001), and varied across jurisdictions. Multivariate logistic regression showed that the odds of having an ACD were positively associated with greater functional impairment and being in an RACF or hospital compared with general practice. 21.6% of people had other ACP documentation.

CONCLUSIONS:
In this study, 30% of people had ACDs accessible and a further 20% had other ACP documentation, suggesting that approximately half of participants had some form of ACP. Correlates of ACD completion were greater impairment and being in an RACF or hospital. Greater efforts to promote and standardise ACDs across jurisdictions may help to assist older people to navigate and complete ACDs and to receive care consistent with their preferences.

24 February 2020

Components of palliative care interventions addressing the needs of people with dementia living in long-term care: A systematic review.

Kochovska S, Garcia MV, Bunn F, Goodman C, Luckett T, Parker D, Phillips JL, Sampson EL, van der Steen JT, Agar MR.

BACKGROUND:
People with dementia requiring palliative care have multiple needs, which are amplified in long-term care settings. The European Association for Palliative Care White Paper offers recommendations for optimal palliative care in dementia integral for this population, providing useful guidance to inform interventions addressing their specific needs.

AIM:
The aim of this study is to describe the components of palliative care interventions for people with dementia in long-term care focusing on shared decision-making and examine their alignment to the European Association for Palliative Care domains of care.

DESIGN:
Systematic review with narrative synthesis (PROSPERO ID: CRD42018095649).

DATA SOURCES:
Four databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and CENTRAL) were searched (earliest records - July 2019) for peer-reviewed articles and protocols in English, reporting on palliative care interventions for people with dementia in long-term care, addressing European Association for Palliative Care Domains 2 (person-centred) or 3 (setting care goals) and ⩾1 other domain.

RESULTS:
Fifty-one papers were included, reporting on 32 studies. For each domain (1-10), there were interventions found aiming to address its goal, although no single intervention addressed all domains. Domain 7 (symptom management; n = 19), 6 (avoiding overly aggressive treatment; n = 18) and 10 (education; n = 17) were the most commonly addressed; Domain 5 (prognostication; n = 7) and 4 (continuity of care; n = 2) were the least addressed.

CONCLUSION:
Almost all domains were addressed across all interventions currently offered for this population to various degrees, but not within a singular intervention. Future research optimally needs to be theory driven when developing dementia-specific interventions at the end of life, with the European Association for Palliative Care domains serving as a foundation to inform the best care for this population.

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