Context: As the prevalence of dementia increases, more people will need dementia palliative and end-of-life (EOL) care in acute hospitals. Published literature suggests that good quality care is not always provided.
Objective: To evaluate the prescription of antipsychotics and performance of multidisciplinary assessments relevant to palliative care for people with dementia, including those at EOL, during hospital admission.
Method: As part of a national audit of dementia care, 660 case notes were reviewed across 35 acute hospitals.
Results: In the entire cohort, many assessments essential to dementia palliative care were not performed. Of the total sample, 76 patients died, were documented to be receiving EOL care, and/or were referred for specialist palliative care. In this cohort, even less symptom assessment was performed (eg, no pain assessment in 27%, no delirium screening in 68%, and no mood or behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia in 93%). In all, 37% had antipsychotic drugs during their admission and 71% of these received a new prescription in hospital, most commonly for agitation.
Conclusion: This study suggests a picture of poor symptom assessment and possible inappropriate prescription of antipsychotic medication, including at EOL, hindering the planning and delivery of effective dementia palliative care in acute hospitals.