Existential aspects documented in older people’s patient records in the context of specialized palliative care: a retrospective review

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Background: Documentation of older people’s end-of-life care should cover the care given and provide an overview of their entire situation. Older people approaching the end of life often have complex symptoms, live with bodily
losses, and face an unknown future in which existential aspects come to the forefront. Knowledge of the existential aspects recorded in palliative care documentation is sparse and merits improvement. This knowledge is relevant to
the development of more holistic documentation and is necessary in order to promote reflection on and discussion of documentation of the sensitive existential considerations arising in palliative care. The aim of this study was to
describe the documentation of existential aspects in the patient records of older people receiving specialized palliative care.

Methods: Data were obtained from a retrospective review of the free-text notes in 84 records of randomly selected patients aged ≥75 years enrolled in specialized palliative care units who died in 2017. The notes were analysed using an inductive qualitative content analysis.

Results: The notes documented existential aspects in terms of connotations of well-being and ill-being. Documented existential aspects were related to the patients’ autonomy concerning loss of freedom and self-determination, social connectedness concerning loneliness and communion, emotional state concerning anxiety and inner peace, and state of being concerning despair and hope. The notes on existential aspects were, however, not recorded in a structured way and no care plans related to existential aspects were found.

Conclusions: Existential aspects concerning both ill-being and well-being were sparsely and unsystematically documented in older people’s patient records, but when notes were extracted from these records and analysed, patterns became evident. Existential aspects form an important basis for delivering person-centred palliative care. There is a need to develop structured documentation concerning existential aspects; otherwise, patients’ thoughts and concerns
may remain unknown to healthcare professionals.
Sidor (från-till)1-9
Antal sidor9
TidskriftBMC Health Services Research
StatusPublicerad - 2022-nov.-16

Nationell ämneskategori

  • Omvårdnad (30305)
  • Geriatrik (30222)


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