End-of-Life Experiences Within a Dementia Support Program During COVID-19: Context and Circumstances Surrounding Death During the Pandemic
Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2022 Jul 18:10499091221116140. doi: 10.1177/10499091221116140. Online ahead of print.
Background: Persons with dementia (PWD) and their caregivers are uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including higher risk of mortality for PWD. Objectives: To describe the context and circumstances of deaths of PWD within a dementia support program during the COVID-19 pandemic. Design: Retrospective data collection of PWD deaths between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021. Setting/Subjects: Decedents enrolled in Care Ecosystem, a multidisciplinary team model for dementia care at University of California San Francisco, Ochsner Health, and UCHealth. Measurements: Using mixed methods, we analyzed data using descriptive measures and team-based thematic analysis to understand the end-of-life (EOL) experience of PWD-caregiver dyads. Results: Twenty-nine PWD died across three sites. Almost half (45%) were between ages 70-79 and 12 (41%) were women. Eighteen (62%) died at a private residence; two died in the hospital. Hospice was involved for 22 (76%) patients. There were known causes of death for 15 (53%) patients. Only two deaths were directly related to COVID-19 infection. Social isolation was perceived to have a high or very high impact for 12 (41%) decedents. Four qualitative themes were identified: (1) isolation due to the pandemic, (2) changes in use of dementia supports and resources, (3) impact on goals of care decisions, and (4) communication challenges for EOL care coordination. Conclusion: Among PWD and caregivers enrolled in a dementia support program, the COVID-19 pandemic had direct and indirect influences on mortality and EOL experiences of PWD. Caregivers' experiences of caring, decision making, and bereavement were also affected.