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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Apr;43(4):732-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.05.012. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

It is "too late" or is it? Bereaved family member perceptions of hospice referral when their family member was on hospice for seven days or less.

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1
Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA. Joan_Teno@brown.edu

Abstract

CONTEXT:

Many family members of patients enrolled in hospice for less than seven days state that the hospice referral was made "at the right time."

OBJECTIVES:

To examine bereaved family members' perceptions of the timing of hospice referral to identify aspects of the referral process that can be improved.

METHODS:

Open-ended interviews were conducted in seven hospice programs, interviewing bereaved family members of hospice patients who died within the first week of hospice enrollment.

RESULTS:

Of the 100 narrative interviews, 99 respondents stated that their family member was either referred "too late" (n=41) or "at the right time" (n=58) to hospice services. When families stated that referral was "at the right time," their perceptions were based on the patient having refused earlier referral (n=8), a rapid decline in the patient's condition resulting in the late referral (n=20), or a belief in all things coming together as they were meant to (n=11). In contrast, when families stated that referral was "too late," their reasons were centered on concerns with the health care providers' role in decision making (n=24), with the leading concerns being inadequate physician communication (n=7), not recognizing the patient as dying (n=11), or problematic hospice delays in referral from the nursing home or home health agency (n=4). Despite the patient refusing an earlier hospice referral, five family members believed the referral was "too late."

CONCLUSION:

Whereas family members identified expected concerns with communication, more than one in three stated an earlier hospice referral was not possible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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