The difficulties of discharging hospice patients to care homes at the end of life: A focus group study

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Abstract

Background:

Discharge from inpatient palliative care units to long-term care can be challenging. In the United Kingdom, hospice inpatients move to a care home if they no longer require specialist palliative care and cannot be discharged home. There is evidence to suggest that patients and families find the prospect of such a move distressing.

Aim:

To investigate the issues that arise when patients are transferred from hospice to care home at the end of life, from the perspective of the hospice multidisciplinary team.

Design:

A qualitative study, using thematic analysis to formulate themes from focus group discussions with hospice staff.

Setting/participants:

Five focus groups were conducted with staff at five UK hospices. Participants included multidisciplinary team members involved in discharge decisions. All groups had representation from a senior nurse and doctor at the hospice, with group size between three and eight participants. All but one group included physiotherapists, occupational therapists and family support workers.

Results:

A major focus of group discussions concerned dilemmas around discharge. These included (1) ethical concerns (dilemmas around the decision, lack of patient autonomy and allocation of resources); (2) communication challenges; and (3) discrepancies between the ideals and realities of hospice palliative care.

Conclusion:

Hospice palliative care unit staff find discharging patients to care homes necessary, but often unsatisfactory for themselves and distressing for patients and relatives. Further research is needed to understand patients’ experiences concerning moving to care homes for end of life care, in order that interventions can be implemented to mitigate this distress.

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