Using an end-of-life care pathway in acute stroke: a mixed methods study of decision-making and care experiences

Cowey, Eileen Stewart (2016) Using an end-of-life care pathway in acute stroke: a mixed methods study of decision-making and care experiences. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background: The evidence base on end-of-life care in acute stroke is limited, particularly with regard to recognising dying and related decision-making. There is also limited evidence to support the use of end-of-life care pathways (standardised care plans) for patients who are dying after stroke.

Aim: This study aimed to explore the clinical decision-making involved in placing patients on an end-of-life care pathway, evaluate predictors of care pathway use, and investigate the role of families in decision-making. The study also aimed to examine experiences of end-of-life care pathway use for stroke patients, their relatives and the multi-disciplinary health care team.

Methods: A mixed methods design was adopted. Data were collected in four Scottish acute stroke units. Case-notes were identified prospectively from 100 consecutive stroke deaths and reviewed. Multivariate analysis was performed on case-note data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 relatives of stroke decedents and 23 healthcare professionals, using a modified grounded theory approach to collect and analyse data. The VOICES survey tool was also administered to the bereaved relatives and data were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis of free-text responses.

Results: Relatives often played an important role in influencing aspects of end-of-life care, including decisions to use an end-of-life care pathway. Some relatives experienced enduring distress with their perceived responsibility for care decisions. Relatives felt unprepared for and were distressed by prolonged dying processes, which were often associated with severe dysphagia. Pro-active information-giving by staff was reported as supportive by relatives. Healthcare professionals generally avoided discussing place of care with families. Decisions to use an end-of-life care pathway were not predicted by patients’ demographic characteristics; decisions were generally made in consultation with families and the extended health care team, and were made within regular working hours.

Conclusion: Distressing stroke-related issues were more prominent in participants’ accounts than concerns with the end-of-life care pathway used. Relatives sometimes perceived themselves as responsible for important clinical decisions. Witnessing prolonged dying processes was difficult for healthcare professionals and families, particularly in relation to the management of persistent major swallowing difficulties.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: End-of-life care, terminal care, dysphagia, stroke, family, patient care planning, decision-making, communication, qualitative research, mixed methods research.
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Medicine, Dentistry & Nursing > Nursing and Health Care
Funder's Name: Chest, Heart & Stroke, Scotland (CHSS)
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Lorraine N. and Stott, Professor David J.
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Eileen Cowey
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7653
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2016 12:25
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2016 14:08
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