Residents living in long-term care homes (LTCH) have complex care needs, multiple chronic conditions, increasing frailty and cognitive impairment. A palliative approach that incorporates advance care planning (ACP) should be integrated with chronic disease management, yet it is not a norm in most LTCHs. Despite its growing need, there remains a lack of staff engagement in the ACP process.
The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of interdisciplinary staff related to the practice of ACP in LTCHs.
This study is part of a larger Canadian project, iCAN ACP, that aims to increase uptake, and access to ACP for older Canadians living with frailty. An exploratory qualitative design using an interpretive descriptive approach was employed utilizing focus groups and semi-structured interviews with staff from four LTCHs in Ontario, Canada.
There were 98 participants, including nurses (
n= 36), physicians ( n= 4), personal support workers ( n= 34), support staff ( n= 23), and a public guardian ( n= 1). Three common themes and nine subthemes were derived: a) ongoing nature of ACP; b) complexities around ACP conversations; and c) aspirations for ACP becoming a standard of care in LTCHs. Discussion
The findings of this study provide important contributions to our understanding of the complexities surrounding ACP implementation as a standard of practice in LTCHs. One of the critical findings relates to a lack of ACP conversations prior to admission in the LTCHs, by which time many residents may have already lost cognitive abilities to engage in these discussions. The hierarchical nature of LTCH staffing also serves as a barrier to the interdisciplinary collaboration required for a successful implementation of ACP initiatives. Participants within our study expressed support for ACP communication and the need for open lines of formal and informal interdisciplinary communication. There is a need for revitalizing care in LTCHs through interdisciplinary care practices, clarification of role descriptions, optimized staffing, capacity building of each category of staff and commitment from the LTCH leadership for such care.
The findings build on a growing body of research illustrating the need to improve staff engagement in ACP communication in LTCHs.