Triggered Palliative Care for Late-stage Dementia: a Pilot Randomized Trial

This pilot randomized controlled trial enrolled 62 dyads of persons with late-stage dementia and family decision-makers on admission to hospital. Intervention dyads received dementia-specific specialty palliative care consultation plus post-acute transitional care. Control dyads received usual care and educational information. The primary outcome was 60-day hospital or emergency department visits. Secondary patient and family-centered outcomes were patient comfort, family distress, palliative care domains addressed in the treatment plan, and access to hospice or community-based palliative care. Secondary decision-making outcomes were discussion of prognosis, goals of care, completion of Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST), and treatment decisions.

Results

Of 137 eligible dyads, 62 (45%) enrolled. The intervention proved feasible, with protocol completion ranging from 77% (family 2-week call) to 93% (initial consultation). Hospital and emergency department visits did not differ (intervention vs control, 0.68 vs 0.53 transfers per 60 days, p=0.415). Intervention patients had more palliative care domains addressed, and were more likely to receive hospice (25% vs 3%, p<0.019). Intervention families were more likely to discuss prognosis (90% vs 3%, p<0.001) and goals of care (90% vs 25%, p<0.001), and to have a MOST at 60-day follow-up (79% vs 30%, p<0.001). More intervention families made decisions to avoid re-hospitalization (13% vs 0%, p=0.033).

Conclusion

Specialty palliative care consultation for hospitalized patients with for late-stage dementia is feasible and promising to improve decision-making and some treatment outcomes.

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