A pilot evaluation of the Strengthening a Palliative Approach in Long-Term Care (SPA-LTC) program
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BACKGROUND: Despite increased annual mortality in long-term care (LTC) homes, research has shown that care of dying residents and their families is currently suboptimal in these settings. The purpose of this study was to evaluate resident and family outcomes associated with the Strengthening a Palliative Approach in LTC (SPA-LTC) program, developed to help encourage meaningful end of life discussions and planning. METHODS: The study employs a mixed method design in four LTC homes across Southern Ontario. Data were collected from residents and families of the LTC homes through chart reviews, interviews, and focus groups. Interviews with family who attended a Palliative Care Conference included both closed-ended and open-ended questions. RESULTS: In total, 39 residents/families agreed to participate in the study. Positive intervention outcomes included a reduction in the proportion of emergency department use at end of life and hospital deaths for those participating in SPA-LTC, improved support for families, and increased family involvement in the care of residents. For families who attended a Palliative Care Conference, both quantitative and qualitative findings revealed that families benefited from attending them. Residents stated that they appreciated learning about a palliative approach to care and being informed about their current status. CONCLUSIONS: The benefits of SPA-LTC for residents and families justify its continued use within LTC. Study results also suggest that certain enhancements of the program could further promote future integration of best practices within a palliative approach to care within the LTC context. However, the generalizability of these results across LTC homes in different regions and countries is limited given the small sample size.
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