End-of-life care and quality of dying in twenty-three acute geriatric hospital wards in Flanders, Belgium.


Authors: Rebecca Verhofstede, Tinne Smets, Joachim Cohen, Kim Eecloo, Massimo Costantini, Nele Van Den Noortgate, Luc Deliens

Journal of pain and symptom management (2016)


To describe the nursing and medical interventions performed in the last 48 hours of life and the quality of dying of patients dying in acute geriatric hospital wards.


Design: Cross-sectional descriptive study between October 1(st) 2012 and September 30(th) 2013.


Twenty-three acute geriatric wards in 13 hospitals in Flanders, Belgium.


Patients hospitalized for more than 48 hours before dying in the participating wards.


Structured after-death questionnaires, filled out by the nurse, the physician and the family carer most involved in end-of-life care. Main outcome measures were several nursing and medical interventions reported to be performed in the last 48 hours of life and the quality of dying.


Out of 993 we included 338 patients (mean age 85.7 years; 173 female). Almost 58% had dementia and nearly half were unable to communicate in the last 48 hours of their life. The most frequently continued or started nursing and medical interventions in the last 48 hours of life were measuring temperature (91.6%), repositioning (83.3%), washing (89.5%), oxygen therapy (49.7%), and intravenous fluids and nutrition (30. Shortness of breath, lack of serenity, lack of peace and lack of calm were symptoms reported most frequently by nurses and family carers.


Many nursing and medical interventions are continued or started in the last hours of a patient's life, which may not always be in their best interests. Furthermore, patients dying in acute geriatric wards are often affected by several symptoms.

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