Documentation of older people's end-of-life care in the context of specialised palliative care: a retrospective review of patient records.

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BACKGROUND: Palliative care focuses on identifying, from a holistic perspective, the needs of those experiencing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses. As older people approach the end of their lives, they can experience a complex series of problems that health-care professionals must identify and document in their patients' records. Documentation is thus important for ensuring high-quality patient care. Previous studies of documentation in older people's patient records performed in various care contexts have shown that such documentation almost exclusively concerns physical problems. This study explores, in the context of Swedish specialised palliative care, the content of documentation in older people's patient records, focusing on documented problems, wishes, aspects of wellbeing, use of assessment tools, interventions, and documentation associated with the person's death.

METHODS: A retrospective review based on randomly selected records (n = 92) of older people receiving specialised palliative care, at home or in a palliative in-patient ward, who died in 2017. A review template was developed based on the literature and on a review of sampled records of patients who died the preceding year. The template was checked for inter-rater agreement and used to code all clinical notes in the patients' records. Data were processed using descriptive statistics.

RESULTS: The most common clinical notes in older people's patient records concerned interventions (n = 16,031, 71%), mostly related to pharmacological interventions (n = 4318, 27%). The second most common clinical notes concerned problems (n = 2804, 12%), pain being the most frequent, followed by circulatory, nutrition, and anxiety problems. Clinical notes concerning people's wishes and wellbeing-related details were documented, but not frequently. Symptom assessment tools, except for pain assessments, were rarely used. More people who received care in palliative in-patient wards died alone than did people who received care in their own homes.

CONCLUSIONS: Identifying and documenting the complexity of problems in a more structured and planned way could be a method for implementing a more holistic approach to end-of-life care. Using patient-reported outcome measures capturing more than one symptom or problem, and a systematic documentation structure would help in identifying unmet needs and developing holistic documentation of end-of-life care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number91
Pages (from-to)91
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Nursing (30305)


  • Documentation
  • Elderly
  • Palliative care
  • Patient records
  • Retrospective review
  • Hospice Care
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care


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