Providing Optimal Palliative Care for Persons Living with Dementia: A Comparison of Physician Perceptions in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom
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BACKGROUND: The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) recently issued a framework that defines optimal palliative care in dementia. However, implementation of the guidelines may pose challenges for physicians working with dementia patients in practice. OBJECTIVE: To measure and compare the perceptions of physicians in two European regions regarding the importance and challenges of implementing recommendations for optimal palliative care in dementia patients. DESIGN: Cross-sectional observational study. SETTING: The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. SUBJECTS: Physicians (n = 317) providing palliative care to patients with dementia. MEASUREMENTS: Postal survey. RESULTS: Physicians in the Netherlands and Northern Ireland (NI), United Kingdom, prioritized the same domains of optimal palliative care for dementia and these match the priorities in the EAPC-endorsed guidelines. Respondents in both countries rated lack of education of professional teams and lack of awareness of the general public among the most important barriers to providing palliative care in dementia. NI respondents also identified access to specialist support as a barrier. The results indicate that there is a strong consensus among experts, elderly care physicians, and general practitioners across a variety of settings in Europe that person-centered care involving optimal communication and shared decision making is the top priority for delivering optimal palliative care in dementia. CONCLUSIONS: The current findings both support and enhance the new recommendations ratified by the EAPC. To take forward the implementation of EAPC guidelines for palliative care for dementia, it will be necessary to assess the challenges more thoroughly at a country-specific level and to design and test interventions that may include systemic changes to help physicians overcome such challenges.
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