Don’t recommend percutaneous feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia; instead, offer oral assisted feeding.
In advanced dementia, studies have found feeding tubes do not result in improved survival, prevention of aspiration pneumonia, or improved healing of pressure ulcers. Feeding tube use in such patients has actually been associated with pressure ulcer development, use of physical and pharmacological restraints, and patient distress about the tube itself. Assistance with oral feeding is an evidence-based approach to provide nutrition for patients with advanced dementia and feeding problems; in the final phase of this disease, assisted feeding may focus on comfort and human interaction more than nutritional goals.
Don’t delay palliative care for a patient with serious illness who has physical, psychological, social or spiritual distress because they are pursuing disease-directed treatment.
Numerous studies—including randomized trials—provide evidence that palliative care improves pain and symptom control, improves family satisfaction with care and reduces costs. Palliative care does not accelerate death, and may prolong life in selected populations.
The important thing to remember here is that palliative care is not always end of life care.
Don’t leave an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) activated when it is inconsistent with the patient/family goals of care.
In about a quarter of patients with ICDs, the defibrillator fires within weeks preceding death. For patients with advanced irreversible diseases, defibrillator shocks rarely prevent death, may be painful to patients and are distressing to caregivers/family members. Currently there are no formal practice protocols to address deactivation; fewer than 10% of hospices have official policies. Advance care planning discussions should include the option of deactivating the ICD when it no longer supports the patient’s goals.