BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Children with medical complexity (CMC) often have multiple life-limiting conditions with no unifying diagnosis and an unclear prognosis and are at high risk for morbidity and mortality. Advance care planning (ACP) conversations need to be uniquely tailored to this population. Our primary objective for this study was to develop an in-depth understanding of the ACP experiences from the perspectives of both parents and health care providers (HCPs) of CMC. METHODS: We conducted 25 semistructured interviews with parents of CMC and HCPs of various disciplines from a tertiary pediatric hospital. Interview guide questions were focused on ACP, including understanding of the definition, positive and negative experiences, and suggestions for improvement. Interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was reached. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed using content analysis. RESULTS: Fourteen mothers and 11 HCPs participated in individual interviews. Interviews revealed 4 major themes and several associated subthemes (in parentheses): (1) holistic mind-set, (2) discussion content (beliefs and values, hopes and goals, and quality of life), (3) communication enhancers (partnerships in shared decision-making, supportive setting, early and ongoing conversations, consistent language and practice, family readiness, provider expertise in ACP discussions, and provider comfort in ACP discussions), and (4) the ACP definition. CONCLUSIONS: Family and HCP perspectives revealed a need for family-centered ACP for CMC and their families. Our results aided the development of a family-centered framework to enhance the delivery of ACP through a holistic mind-set, thoughtful discussion content, and promoting of conversation enhancers.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Heath care use and cost for children at the end of life is not well documented across the multiple sectors where children receive care. The study objective was to examine demographics, location, cause of death, and health care use and costs over the last year of life for children aged 1 month to 19 years who died in Ontario, Canada. METHODS: We conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study using administrative databases to determine the characteristics of and health care costs by age group and cause of death over a 3-year period from 2010 to 2013. RESULTS: In our cohort of 1620 children, 41.6% died of a chronic disease with wide variation across age groups. The mean health care cost over the last year of life was $78 332 (Canadian) with a median of $18 450, reflecting the impact of high-cost decedents. The mean costs for children with chronic or perinatal/congenital illnesses nearly tripled over the last 4 months of life. The majority of costs (67.0%) were incurred in acute care settings, with 88.0% of children with a perinatal/congenital illness and 79.7% with a chronic illness dying in acute care. Only 33.4% of children received home care in the last year of life. CONCLUSIONS: Children in Ontario receive the majority of their end-of-life care in acute care settings at a high cost to the health care system. Initiatives to optimize care should focus on early discussion of the goals of care and assessment of whether the care provided fits with these goals.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Forgoing artificial nutrition and hydration (FANH) in children at the end of life (EOL) is a medically, legally, and ethically acceptable practice under specific circumstances. However, most of the evidence on FANH involves dying adults. There is a paucity of pediatric evidence to guide health care providers’ and parents’ decision-making around this practice. Objectives were (1) to explore the experiences of bereaved parents when a decision had been made to FANH during EOL care for their child and (2) to describe the perceived quality of death in these children, as reported by their parents. METHODS: This was a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with parents whose children died after a decision to FANH. Parental perceptions about the experience and their child’s quality of death were explored. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed, then data were analyzed by using interpretive description methodology. RESULTS: All parents were satisfied with their decision to FANH and believed that their child’s death was generally peaceful and comfortable. The child’s perceived poor quality of life was central to the decision to FANH, with feeding intolerance often contributing to this perception. Despite overall satisfaction, all parents had doubts and questions about the decision and benefited from ongoing assurances from the clinical team. CONCLUSIONS: FANH in children at the EOL is an acceptable form of palliation for some parents and may contribute to a death that is perceived to be peaceful and comfortable. In situations in which FANH may be a reasonable possibility, physicians should be prepared to introduce the option.