There is an urgent need to improve end-of-life care for older people in the final stages of dementia, according to an international review published in the May issue of Journal of Clinical Nursing.
"We must act now to stop people with dementia from suffering from protracted, potentially uncomfortable and undignified deaths" says Jan Draper, Professor of Nursing for The Open University, UK.
"The management of dementia is becoming a major international public health concern because people are living longer which means that more people are likely to develop this disease."
Professor Draper teamed up with Deborah Birch, a Clinical Nurse Specialist working with older people in Lincoln,UK, to review 10 years of published research. They carried out a detailed analysis of 29 studies, from the USA, UK, Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.
"Our review has reinforced the importance of providing appropriate palliative care
to individuals suffering from end-stage dementia and clearly identified some of the barriers to extending such provision" says Professor Draper.
"These include concerns that such an expansion might lead to skills and funding shortages and, in turn, compromise the ability of existing palliative care teams to provide care to cancer patients, who tend to be the main recipients of this kind of care.
"We believe that clinicians and patient groups caring for patients with advanced dementia need to work together with specialist palliative care providers and health commissioners to develop, fund and evaluate appropriate cost-effective services that meet the needs of both patients and their families.
Norman DeLisle, MDRC
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