Quality of care, spirituality, relationships and finances in older adult palliative care patients in Lebanon

Huda Abu-Saad Huijer, Rachele Bejjani, Souha Fares


Background: Despite making up a big proportion of the world population, older adults received little palliative care services. Moreover, palliative quality of care provided to older adults has been shown to be poor. Adequate clinician communication, familial support, and religious/spiritual support have been identified as main factors in providing good quality of care. The purpose of our study on Lebanese older adult palliative care patients is to assess the quality of palliative care in terms of access to care, patient-clinician relationship, and clinician-clinician communication, assess the degree of spirituality/religiousness of patients and their sense of purpose, to explore patients’ relationships including friendships and social support and to assess the degree of financial hardship during the illness.
Methods: An observational cross-sectional design was used in this study of hospitalized older adults in three major medical centers in Lebanon over a period of 2 years from 2015 to 2017. Key physicians from each of the three medical centers recruited participants into the study to obtain a convenience sample (N=203). Quality of care was measured using 20 selected items from the Needs at the End of life Screening Tool (NEST).
Results: Patients reported easy access to care expressed by low median item scores ranging from the lowest 1.0 pertaining to lack of a problematic doctor choice to the highest 3.0 for ease of securing a hospital bed. Difficulty expressing their feelings to their healthcare providers had an average median of 5.0 with other items on communication having higher medians. The sample considered themselves to be highly religious or spiritual with a median score of 9.0 and identified an inclination to be more religious or spiritual after their illness with a median of 7.0. Social support was found to be good and financial hardships had low median scores ranging from 3.0 to 5.0.
Conclusions: Older adults receiving palliative care reported ease of access to medical care, average communication, good spiritual and social status and minimal financial hardships. The authors recommend integrating spiritual and social aspects into the patients’ palliative care to improve quality of care and quality of life.