A Systematic Review of Nursing Home Palliative Care Interventions: Characteristics and Outcomes

Abstract [from journal] 

Background: Despite recommendations to integrate palliative care into nursing home care, little is known about the most effective ways to meet this goal.

Objective: To examine the characteristics and effectiveness of nursing home interventions that incorporated multiple palliative care domains (eg, physical aspects of care—symptom management, and ethical aspects—advance care planning).

Design: Systematic review.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE via PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library's CENTRAL from inception through January 2019. We included all randomized and nonrandomized trials that compared palliative care to usual care and an active comparator. We assessed the type of intervention, outcomes, and the risk of bias.

Results: We screened 1167 records for eligibility and included 13 articles. Most interventions focused on staff education and training strategies and on implementing a palliative care team. Many interventions integrated advance care planning initiatives into the intervention. We found that palliative care interventions in nursing homes may enhance palliative care practices, including processes to assess and manage pain and symptoms. However, inconsistent outcomes and high or unclear risk of bias among most studies requires results to be interpreted with caution.

Conclusions and Implications: Heterogeneity in methodology, findings, and study bias within the existing literature revealed limited evidence for nursing home palliative care interventions. Findings from a small group of diverse clinical trials suggest that interventions enhanced nursing home palliative care and improved symptom assessment and management processes.