Background: In the last month of life, many patients suffer from multiple symptoms and problems. Professional supportive care involvement may help to alleviate patients’ suffering and provide them with an optimal last phase of life. Purpose: We investigated how often palliative care consultants, pain specialists, psychological experts and spiritual caregivers are involved in caring for patients in the last month of life, and which factors are associated with their involvement. Methods: Questionnaires were mailed to physicians who had attended the death of a patient from a stratified sample of 8496 deaths that had occurred in 2010 in the Netherlands. The response rate was 74 % (n = 6263). Results: A palliative care team or consultant had been involved in the last month of life in 12 % of all patients for whom death was expected; this percentage was 3 % for pain specialists, 6 % for psychologists or psychiatrists and 13 % for spiritual caregivers. Involvement of palliative care or pain specialists was most common in younger patients, in patients with cancer and in patients who died at home. Involvement of psychological or spiritual caregivers was most common in older patients, in females, in patients with dementia and in patients who died in a nursing home. Involvement of supportive caregivers was also associated with the use of morphine and end-of-life decisions. Conclusion: Supportive care professionals are involved in end-of-life care in about a quarter of all non-suddenly dying patients. Their involvement is related to the setting where patients die, to the patient’s characteristics and to complex ethical decision-making.

Consultation, End-of-life decision-making, Palliative care, Supportive care,
Supportive Care in Cancer
Department of Public Health

Brinkman-Stoppelenburg, A, Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B.D, & van der Heide, A. (2015). Involvement of supportive care professionals in patient care in the last month of life. Supportive Care in Cancer, 23(10), 2899–2906. doi:10.1007/s00520-015-2655-3