Article Title

Communicating end-of-life care goals and decision-making among a multidisciplinary geriatric inpatient rehabilitation team: A qualitative descriptive study


Background: In geriatric inpatient rehabilitation settings, where the goal is to optimise function, providing end-of-life care can be challenging.

Aim: The aim of this study is to explore how end-of-life care goals and decision-making are communicated in a geriatric inpatient rehabilitation setting.

Design: The design is a qualitative descriptive design using semi-structured individual and group interviews.

Setting/participants: This study was conducted in a 154-bed facility in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, providing geriatric inpatient rehabilitation for older patients; medical, nursing and allied health clinicians, who had cared for an inpatient who died, were recruited.

Data collection: Participants were interviewed using a conversational approach, guided by an ‘aide memoire’.

Results: A total of 19 clinicians participated in this study, with 12 interviewed individually and the remaining 7 clinicians participating in group interviews. The typical patient was described as older, frail and with complex needs. Clinicians described the challenge of identifying patients who were deteriorating towards death, with some relying on others to inform them. How patient deterioration and decision-making was communicated among the team varied. Communication with the patient/family about dying was expected but did not always occur, nor was it always documented. Some clinicians relied on documentation, such as commencement of a dying care pathway to indicate when a patient was dying.

Conclusion: Clinicians reported difficulties recognising patient deterioration towards death. Uncertainty and inconsistent communication among clinicians about patient deterioration negatively impacted team understanding, decision-making, and patient and family communication. Further education for all members of the multidisciplinary team focusing on how to recognise and communicate impending death will aid multidisciplinary teams to provide quality end-of-life care when required.


communication, decision-making, end-of-life care, geriatric, older person, palliative care, rehabilitation

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