Palliative care provisions are not meeting the needs of an ageing population

A commentary published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, warns despite the fact that frail older people with multiple illnesses and end stage dementia are the most rapidly growing group in need of palliative care current provisions are not aligned to meet their needs.

The authors of the commentary noted that current projections indicate that between 25% and 47% more people may need palliative care by 2040 in England and Wales. A high proportion of these people will die following a prolonged period of increasing frailty and co-morbidity including cancer, but also other long-term conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or renal failure. Continue reading

Using population sub-segmentation to promote tailored end of life care in later life

Professor Martin Vernon is National Clinical Director for Older People and Person Centred Integrated Care at NHS England. He tweets @runnermandoc. Dr Dawn Moody is Associate National Clinical Director for Older People and Integrated Person-Centred Care for NHS England. She tweets @Moody_D_K. They will be speaking at the BGS Living and Dying Well with Frailty event today. Follow the conference via #bgsconf

Frailty is an especially problematic long term condition characterised by declining intrinsic capacity to deal with stressor events such as acute illness or physical accidents. When severe it significantly increases personal annual risk of reaching end of life. While occurring alongside human ageing, not everyone develops frailty and it is not solely confined to older people. NHS England estimates 20% of the population aged 90 and over remains fit and are therefore likely to be fortunate in ageing well. Conversely we estimate that up to 25% of people aged 65 to 69 are living with mild frailty in England which compared to their fit peer group places them at twice the annual risk of reaching end of life.  A further 5% of this age group is estimated to be living with moderate or severe frailty. Continue reading

“The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Professor Martin Green OBE has had an extensive career in NGO development, both in the UK and internationally, and is Chief Executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK. He will be speaking at Living and Dying Well with Frailty event on 6 March. Follow the conference on the day via #bgsconf

We have now got a Department of Health and Social Care, what a difference that is going to make (I said sarcastically). With increasing regularity, the Government seems to think that messing about with the headed paper is a route to change. How much evidence do they need that changing titles and rejigging the logos is not going to deliver the transformational change that is required in order to deliver the route map to integrated services. If we had spent one tenth of the money we have spent on new titles, new structures and new logos on culture change, we would be in a far better position than we find ourselves today and the integrated services that citizens are crying out for might be a more attainable goal. Continue reading

Spring Speakers Series: Are rules of thumb the answer?

Nathan Davies is a Senior Research Fellow at University College London focusing on care for people with dementia towards the end of life and supporting family carers. In this post he talks about his upcoming talk at the BGS Spring Meeting in Nottingham on his work developing rules of thumb for providing care towards the end of life for someone with dementia.

Can rules of thumb help manage uncertainty and the challenges facing practitioners caring for someone with dementia at the end of life?

We know that caring for someone towards the end of life can be a rewarding and intimate experience with that individual and those close to them. However, unfortunately for practitioners it can also be emotionally tough and challenging. This is particularly the case when caring for someone with dementia towards the end of life. Continue reading

Is this your first time?

Dawne Garrett is Professional Lead for Older People and Dementia at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Eleanor Sherwen is Professional Lead for Palliative and End of Life Care, and also works at the RCN. They will be delivering a workshop at Living and Dying Well with Frailty Meeting on 6 March in London. Please note this meeting has now sold out and there will be no on site registration. To join the waiting list please email

Approaching end of life care discussions with the patient for the first time…

Dawne and I have been asked to deliver a 60 minute workshop on this key and sometimes challenging area of practice. The importance of choice and the delivery of holistic person centred care is repeatedly highlighted in the literature, both from researchers and policy makers.  Yet how can we even begin to deliver person centred care when there is at times a reluctance to open up and initiate these essential conversations? Let alone when communicating with someone who has limited sight, poor hearing and cognitive impairment. The evidence says that professionals can feel more comfortable approaching conversations in relation to sex, rather than having conversions with patients and those that are important to them focused on death and dying.  Continue reading

Blue Ribbon Patient: Do Not Transfer

Rick Strang RN is Emergency Care Improvement Lead at Isle of Wight NHS Trust in England. When not involved in all types of emergency care Rick is usually finding innovative ways to avoid household chores.

Most of us across acute care have been involved in late night bed pressures that call for that dreaded decision to need to move some patients around between wards. Typically we see the only beds available to be surgical ones whilst the demand is for acute medical beds. Moving acute medical patients directly to these outlying beds from the emergency department (ED) may present too much of a risk. Lower acuity patients from acute wards are therefore often sought out to be transferred into these surgical beds thus making way for the more acute ED demand. End of Life (EoL) patients seem particularly at risk of being moved, which can be very distressing for families, friends, the patient and the care teams. Continue reading

Book Review: Please tell me…

Liz Charalambous is a nurse and PhD student. She tweets @lizcharalambou and is a regular guest blogger for the BGS. Here she reviews ‘Please tell me…’ by Julia Jones and Claudia Myatt.

Without a doubt, one of the most important documents in older person care is the Alzheimer’s Society This is me support tool. It enables carers to access information with which to provide holistic care and is underpinned by a social model of care rather than a medical model, so important in today’s world of fast paced, pressurised, and increasingly politicised healthcare services. It places the person in the centre of care, ensuring their likes, dislikes, and preferences are recorded for the whole team to access.

Indeed, a favourite teaching strategy when introducing new students to dementia care is to provide them with two copies of ‘this is me’ and ask them to take them home for their partners or significant others to complete in the manner of ‘Mr and Mrs’ style 1970s TV programme. I have heard many stories of students returning the next day reporting back to the group that their other half had failed hopelessly in filling in the form, prompting them to realise the precariousness of ensuring person centred care in such instances. Continue reading

Dying with dementia – we need to measure more than the place of death

Katherine Sleeman is an NIHR Clinician Scientist and Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine at the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London. In this blog she discusses her paper Predictors of emergency department attendance by people with dementia in their last year of life: Retrospective cohort study using linked clinical and administrative data. She tweets @kesleeman

Over the past decade there has been a strong policy focus in the UK and elsewhere on dying out of hospital as a marker of good quality of end of life care. We have previously shown that, for people with dementia, hospital deaths have fallen over this time period, possibly as a result of these policies.

However, it is increasingly recognised that the place of death is an imperfect proxy for the quality of end of life care, providing little more than a snap shot of where a person was in their last moments. Continue reading

PSP – more than just difficult PD, and how geriatricians have a key role to play…

Carol Amirghiasvand is the Helpline and Information Services Manager for the PSP Association (PSPA). She has worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 20 years providing information and support to people with neurological conditions. Her current role is managing the Information and Support services provided by PSPA to ensure knowledge and understanding of PSP and CBD is increased and that people affected by these conditions have access to a more acceptable quality of care and support. Follow the PSP Association @PSPASSOCIATION

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a commonly misdiagnosed neurological condition with an average age of onset of 63. Almost 40% of respondents to a recent survey by the PSP Association saw a geriatrician before being referred to a neurologist, meaning that geriatricians can play a vital role in identifying the disease and ensuring rapid access to the most appropriate care. Continue reading

What does good look like when thinking about care homes?

Claire Goodman is Professor of Health Care Research at University of Hertfordshire. Claire has a district nursing background and is a NIHR Senior Investigator. Her research focuses on the health and social care needs of the oldest old, including those affected by dementia and living in long term care. She leads the DEMCOM study, an evaluation of Dementia Friendly Communities – @DEMCOMstudy @HDEMCOP

We have new neighbours. They moved three miles to improve their children’s chances of going to their preferred secondary school. If they had stayed put they would have been assured of getting a good state education. We are surrounded by Ofsted rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools. The issue was that whilst it probably did not matter if their daughter went to a girls only or co-educational school, for their son, a boys only school, with a big focus on sport, would have been a problem. People in my local area know a lot about the schools, they know what the head is like, who the good teachers are, what extra-curricular activities are available and if it’s struggling with its budget. Continue reading