Challenges to improving end of life care of people with advanced dementia in the UK

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The end of life care received by patients with advanced dementia and their carers is of increasing importance as the incidence of dementia is set to rise in the next 30 years. Currently, inappropriate admissions to hospital are common in the UK and patients are less likely to be referred to palliative care services, receive less pain control but undergo more invasive interventions compared to their cognitively intact counterparts. Patients and families are seldom informed of the terminal nature of dementia and advance care planning discussions are rare. The aim of this study was to improve the understanding of end of life care needs for this patient group and their carers, and to use this information to devise an intervention to improve care. Qualitative data were obtained from relatives of 20 patients with advanced dementia admitted to an inner London teaching hospital acute National Health Service (NHS) Trust and 21 health care professionals involved in their care. Framework analysis was used to analyse the transcripts. The results showed that participants' understanding of dementia and its likely progress was poor. Provision of information regarding the future was rare despite high information needs. Attitudes regarding end of life care were often driven by the participant's illness awareness. These attitudes served to guide the decision making process and appear to be a major barrier to the provision of more appropriate care. Implications for patient care are discussed and suggestions for future interventions are made.

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