Home Palliative Care of Terminal Cancer Patients, with Family Feedback
Hana Arad, Hana Geva, Valery Rosin, Ruth Kibrik, Isaac Kersz
Home Care Unit of Kupat Holim Haklalit, HaEmek Medical Center, Afula and Quality Improvement Unit, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa
Palliative care of terminal cancer patients is one of the tasks of our Home Care Unit. Increasing hospitalization costs have brought forward the decision to treat them at home, assuming that they would prefer to return and die in their natural surroundings, among family.
Most of our patients are aged, recent immigrants from the Soviet Union, of low socioeconomic status; most live with their close families. Our care model combines social, cultural, economic, medical and nursing aspects. More patients choose to die at home, and that is where costs are minimal. Care management and characteristics of 44 terminal cancer patients, who died between January and October 1996, are described. Living with a family was not required for treatment at home. Length of care by the unit ranged from 1-48 weeks, with an average of 8.5 and a median of 6. 55% of patients were hospitalized, most (58%) for 5-9 days for noncancerous diseases, and then discharged home. 54% died at home, a third were hospitalized for 2-17 days before death. Compared to the average length of stay in palliative care oncology wards, 1044 days and more than NIS 500,000 were saved.
A telephone survey examined families' satisfaction with various components of care. 92% were satisfied with the home treatment. 79%-82% felt that the nurse and doctor of the team met their needs and expectations. Half the families were satisfied with the treatment of pain. Families in which treatment was 24 weeks or more were generally less satisfied than those with shorter treatment at home. We learned that an early entry into treatment is necessary; hospital referral criteria should consider to a greater extent the coping ability of families; nursing aid hours should be increased and professional emotional support added; additional pain control methods should be used. All these would strengthen families, improve quality of care, and contribute to additional savings by decreasing hospital stay.