Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Family Perspectives on Hospice Care Experiences of Patients with Cancer

Purpose: To determine whether hospice use by patients with cancer is associated with their families’ perceptions of patients’ symptoms, goal attainment, and quality of end-of-life (EOL) care. Methods: We interviewed 2,307 families of deceased patients with advanced lung or colorectal cancer who were enrolled in the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance study (a multiregional, prospective, observational study) and died by 2011. We used propensity-score matching to compare family-reported outcomes for patients who did and did not receive hospice care, including the presence and relief of common symptoms (ie, pain, dyspnea), concordance with patients’ wishes for EOL care and place of death, and quality of EOL care. We also examined associations between hospice length of stay and these outcomes among hospice enrollees. Results: In a propensity-score-matched sample of 1,970 individuals, families of patients enrolled in hospice reported more pain in their patient compared with those not enrolled in hospice. However, families of patients enrolled in hospice more often reported that patients received “just the right amount” of pain medicine (80% v 73%; adjusted difference, 7 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1 to 12 percentage points) and help with dyspnea (78% v 70%; adjusted difference, 8 percentage points; 95% CI, 2 to 13 percentage points). Families of patients enrolled in hospice also more often reported that patients’ EOL wishes were followed (80% v 74%; adjusted difference, 6 percentage points; 95% CI, 2 to 11 percentage points) and “excellent” quality EOL care (57% v 42%; adjusted difference, 15 percentage points; 95% CI, 11 to 20). Families of patients who received > 30 days of hospice care reported the highest quality EOL outcomes. Conclusion: Hospice care is associated with better symptom relief, patient-goal attainment, and quality of EOL care. Encouraging earlier and increased hospice enrollment may improve EOL experiences for patients with cancer and their families.