The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) has published a new set of guidelines on end-of-life care to help health care professionals provide high quality, patient-centred care to frail older people. The current COVID-19 pandemic, and its devastating impact on care homes has, the BGS says, highlighted the importance of urgently improving and enhancing good practice in this area.
‘Too often the clinical response to an acute deterioration in a frail older person is protocol or pathway driven, especially during an unprecedented crisis such as the one we are experiencing at the moment,’ said Dr Eileen Burns, co-editor of the guidelines.
‘ This can lead to invasive and sometimes distressing treatments without pausing to reflect on the values and wishes of the older person who is being cared for.’
The guidelines cover a wide range of issues identified as worries for patients and their families including advance care planning; law and ethics; and common distressing symptoms such as delirium, dysphagia and incontinence.
Welcoming the guidelines’ publication, Professor Tahir Masud, President of the BGS, said: ‘At the present time it is perhaps more important than ever that considerations and conversations around the end of life are prioritised, to help ensure that older people receive the care they want and deserve.
‘This document, which is the first of its kind, will be of enormous value to the multidisciplinary teams who support older people with frailty at the end of their lives. It will help healthcare professionals to navigate older people and their families through this difficult time, providing care, comfort and relief.’
The guidelines come as new figures released by the Office of National Statisitics (ONS) show that deaths in care homes from COVID-19 are 50% higher than was previously thought. The data which shows 12,526 care home residents have died from the virus, was described as ‘worrying’ by health think tank the Health Foundation.
‘Timely and accurate data from care homes is now needed more than ever, to better understand the underlying reasons behind the continued increase in deaths and help mobilise the resources the sector so desperately needs,’ said Sarah Deeny. Assistant Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation
Access the British Geriatic Society ‘End of Life Care in Frailty’ guidelines at www.bgs.org.uk/EOLCfrailty