End-of-life care for advanced dementia patients in residential care home—a Hong Kong perspective
Dementia will become more common as the population ages. Advanced dementia should be considered as a terminal illnesses and end-of-life (EOL) care is very much needed for this disease group. Currently, the EOL services provided to this vulnerable group in Hong Kong, especially those living in residential care homes, is limited. The usual practice of residential care homes is to send older residents with advanced dementia to acute hospitals when they are sick, irrespective of their wish, premorbid status, diagnoses and prognosis. This may not accord with what the patients perceive to be a “good death”. There are many barriers for older people to die in place, both at home and at the residential care home. In the community, to enhance EOL care to residential care home for the elderly (RCHE) residents, pilot EOL program had been carried out by some Community Geriatric Assessment Teams. Since 2015, the Hospital Authority funded program “Enhance Community Geriatric Assessment Team Support to End-of-life Patients in Residential Care Homes for the Elderly” has been started. In the program, advance care planning (ACP), Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) (non-hospitalized) order will be established and the program will be expected to cover all clusters in Hong Kong by 2018/2019. In hospital setting, EOL clinical plan and EOL ward in geriatric step-down hospitals may be able to improve the quality of death of older patients. In Sep 2015, the Hospital Authority Guidelines on Life-Sustaining Treatment in the Terminally Ill was updated. Amongst other key EOL issues, careful (comfort) hand feeding was mentioned in the guideline. Other new developments include the possible establishment of enduring power of attorney for health care decision and enhancement of careful hand feeding amongst advanced dementia patients in RCHEs.