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

“Please remember I’m still a person!” A carer’s solution to help hospital staff provide person-centred and holistic care

Zoe Harris cared for her husband at home before his dementia reached a stage where she was unable to cope, and he spent his final months in a care home. As a result of that experience, Zoe developed a range of communication tools to ensure that carers were aware of his needs and preferences, and which have subsequently been adopted by over 1,000 care homes and home care agencies. Her latest project is Mycarematters, an online platform where people, or someone on their behalf, can upload information to help hospital staff treat the whole person and not just their medical condition. @ZoeHarrisCCUK @Mycarematters @Care_Charts_UK

When I look back, I think Geoff had been showing signs of dementia for at least eight years before his diagnosis, and it was only a matter of months after he was finally told that he had what was probably a mix of Alzheimer’s Disease and Lewy Bodies, that his condition took a turn for the worse. I had to admit defeat and he moved first to a dementia assessment ward and, three months later, to a care home for what turned out to be the final 13 months of his life. Continue reading

We talk a lot about delirium after hip fracture, but what can we do about it?

Dr. Susan Freter is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Dalhousie University, and a staff geriatrician at the Nova Scotia Health Authority in Halifax, Canada.  She has a special interest in delirium prevention and management in orthopaedic patients.  

Geriatricians talk a lot about post-operative delirium.  It is common after surgeries, especially in people with a lot of risk factors (or we could say, especially in the presence of frailty), and even with recovery it makes for a bad experience.  The occurrence of hip fracture, which mostly befalls patients who are older and frail, demonstrates this routinely.  We know that taking extra care with at-risk patients can help to prevent delirium.  Taking extra care can manifest in different forms: educating the caregivers, paying attention to hydration (is the patient actually drinking the cup of water that is plonked down in front of them?), paying attention to constipation (preferably before a week has gone by), making sure hearing aids are in the ears, and using medication doses that are geared for frailty, rather than for strapping 20 year olds. But how can what we talk about be translated into what we do? Does the ‘doing’ actually work in practice? Continue reading

Cognitive impairment, mortality and discharge from an acute hospital

Carole Fogg is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth/Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, (UK). She is a PhD Fellow under the Wessex Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Healthcare and Research, exploring hospital care and outcomes for patients with cognitive impairment and dementia. Her paper “The relationship between cognitive impairment, mortality and discharge characteristics in a large cohort of older adults with unscheduled admissions to an acute hospital: a retrospective observational study has recently been published in Age and Ageing. She tweets at @Carole_Fogg 

When older people with dementia are admitted to hospital, they are more likely to die or to stay in hospital longer than people without dementia. Many older people have cognitive impairment (CI) (problems with memory and thinking) which is a main feature of dementia, but have not yet been given a diagnosis, or may have CI due to other medical conditions. We investigated how common cognitive impairment is in older patients in hospital, and what the risks are for these patients of staying longer or dying in hospital. Continue reading

Accurate delirium screening when there is no carer available – impossible, right?

Suzanne Timmons is a geriatrician working in Mercy University hospital, Cork and a senior lecturer in University College Cork. She has a big clinical and research interest in delirium and dementia care in hospitals.

delirium-flatDelirium  is common in older people admitted to hospital, and is a serious condition that needs to be identified quickly on admission. But many busy hospital staff still don’t routinely screen older people for delirium, even when they have known dementia (dementia puts people at very high risk of delirium: see the Cork Dementia Study).

In this study, we tested out five simple cognitive tests to see if they could be used to screen for delirium. The tests were: the Six-item Cognitive Impairment Test (6-CIT; measuring attention, orientation to time, and short-term memory); the Clock-Drawing test; Spatial Span Forwards (pointing to a sequence of squares in a certain order); reciting the months of the year backwards (MOTYB); and copying a shape containing two intersecting pentagons. Continue reading

John’s Campaign Conference; Stay with me

Liz Charalambous is a qualified nurse on a female, acute medical HCOP (Health Care for Older People) ward at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital Trust. She was one of the speakers at the John’s Campaign Conference. She tweets at @lizcharalambou and is a regular guest blogger for the BGS.

johns-campaignI was proud to be invited to speak this week at the John’s Campaign Conference on 12th October. The conference proved to be an oasis of light, love, and hope in the often gruelling and lonely journey of dementia. Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones, co-founders of John’s Campaign, who both have personal experience of caring for loved ones with dementia, pulled together a groundbreaking and heartwarming conference, which was nothing short of miraculous. Nicci and Julia began what they described as a ‘kitchen table revolution’ to campaign to change the draconian restricted visiting arrangements of adult hospital care, advocating that people with dementia should have the support of their loved ones while in hospital. Continue reading

Time to move: Get up, Get Dressed, Keep moving

Dr Amit Arora is a Consultant Physician and Geriatrician at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent and an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at Keele University.

deconditioning-1Many years ago I was subject to restricted mobility following an emergency appendicectomy. It took me a surprisingly long time to regain my strengths and abilities- I noted that despite the youth and the will, my muscles would not move and it took a while to recover back to normal!

When I co-relate this to the frail older people that I see in hospitals, I can understand why someone who was able to function well before they came to hospital takes longer to regain their pre-admission functionality.  Prolonged hospital stay, bed rest and attendant risks may lead to loss of muscle power, strength and abilities. This is something we surely need to avoid. It should help achieve a shorter length of stay, better outcomes for patients and better ability at discharge. Continue reading

Sleep outs – nemesis of every clinician

Adhi (V Adhiyaman), geriatrician and Chair of Welsh council of the BGS. Tweets at @adhiyamanv

bedEvery clinician hates having sleep outs. Sleep outs or outliers used to be a rare occurrence in the past and happened only in extremely busy winter months. Now it is a norm due to reduction in bed capacity across England and Wales. In every hospital there are around 15-30 sleep outs at any time (even more if one includes the patients in emergency department waiting for a medical bed).

Most of the sleep outs are direct admission of medical patients to non-medical wards. It is not the clinicians who decide the sleep outs anymore. Bed managers make this decision and frequently hassle the medical registrars to identify sleep outs so that they don’t have to take the ownership of their decisions. Registrars are fed up of doing this as they are always busy with the take or dealing with other medical issues.    Continue reading

Which screening tool(s) should clinicians use for the detection of delirium in older, hospitalised patients?

Kirsty Hendry is a research assistant based at Glasgow Royal Infirmary having recently completed her PhD at the University of Glasgow. In this blog she discusses her recent Age and Ageing paper looking at screening of delirium in older, acute care in-patients. Kirsty can be contacted at Kirsty.Hendry0@gmail.com

A&ADelirium, suggested to be the most common psychiatric disorder suffered by older hospitalised individuals, has a low clinical awareness. This is despite existing guidelines such as those produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) being in general agreement that delirium screening is important in older hospitalised patients.  Continue reading

If it’s everyone’s business, lets make a plan

Pamela Levack is Medical Director of the charity PATCH – Palliation And The Caring Hospital contactus@patchscotland.com

patchDavid Oliver’s recent blog in the BMJ End of Life Care in hospital is everyone’s business, reports on the findings of the recent Royal College of Physicians Audit into End of Life Care. The two main findings, a need to increase the number of specialist palliative care doctors and specialist palliative care nurses in hospital and to ensure that newly qualified doctors have more knowledge and confidence dealing with end of life situations, match the aims of our recently established charity PATCH Palliation And The Caring Hospital Continue reading