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Keywords:

  • Older Adult;
  • Cancer Pain;
  • Pain Assessment;
  • Pain Management;
  • Quality of Life;
  • Hospice

Abstract

Objective.  Gathering firsthand or reported information about patients in the final stages of terminal cancer is difficult due to patient frailty, cognitive impairment, excessive fatigue, and severity of illness, as well as gatekeeping by hospice providers and caregivers, and highly variable documentation practices. We sought to further understand and elucidate end-of-life experiences in older cancer patients through the application of validated tools employed in the hospice setting. This article summarizes data collected about pain, non-pain symptoms, and other aspects of quality of life (QOL) as reported by older hospice patients or by their caregivers during the 2 weeks of hospice care.

Design.  Data was collected from an ongoing Institutional Human Subjects Review Board-approved research project with 94 older adults with cancer or their caregivers receiving service in a home setting from 14 Midwestern hospices. Participants completed one or two telephone interviews. Instruments used to gather information include the Brief Pain Inventory and the Brief Hospice Inventory.

Results.  Data analysis showed mean “worst pain” ratings significantly decreased from Interview 1 to Interview 2, and pain reports were significantly correlated with fatigue, anxiety, appetite, comfort, symptom control, and overall QOL.

Conclusions.  Our findings reinforce previously held views that older patients with cancer experience pain and non-pain symptoms. And both pain and non-pain symptoms can impact and confound the treatment of other symptoms and interfere with the patient's overall QOL. The results of this study support the assertion that hospice care can have a positive impact on pain severity and related suffering, as well as patient QOL as death approaches.