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J Palliat Med. 2003 Feb;6(1):45-57.

The challenges and opportunities in providing end-of-life care in nursing homes.

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  • 1Pain Research Department, Swedish Medical Center, and Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, School of Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98122, USA.


Approximately 20% of deaths in the United States occur in nursing homes. That percentage is expected to increase as the population continues to age. As a setting for end-of-life care, nursing homes provide both challenges and opportunities. This article examines factors that impede the delivery of high-quality end-of-life care in nursing homes, such as inadequate staff and physician training, regulatory and reimbursement issues, poor symptom management, and lack of psychosocial support for staff, residents, and families. In addition to discussing hindrances to providing end-of-life care, this article explores characteristics of nursing homes and their staff that support the care of terminally ill residents. Also included is an overview of models for delivering end-of-life care in nursing homes, including provision of hospice services, specialized palliative care units, and consultation services. Finally, this article discusses educational programs and current educational initiatives to enhance end-of-life care in nursing homes.

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