Background Dementia caregivers describe knowing what to expect as an unmet need and many are unaware that dementia can be a terminal condition. Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a common neurodegenerative dementia with unique features which may affect the end of life (EOL). Given the paucity of data on EOL experiences in dementia and unique aspects of DLB affecting EOL, we investigated EOL experiences as reported by caregivers of individuals with DLB. Method We conducted telephone interviews with caregivers and family members of individuals who died with DLB in the last 5 years using a semi-structured questionnaire to identify and describe EOL experiences. We used a qualitative descriptive approach to analyze interview transcripts and identify common themes. Results Thirty individuals participated in interviews. Key themes included lack of knowledge regarding what to expect, end-of-life time course (including end-of-life symptoms, declines after hospitalization and falls, and varied EOL trajectories), advance care planning, lack of family understanding, hospice, views regarding right-to-die, medications at the end of life, approaching end of life, the death experience, and activities that enhanced end of life. Lack of communication between health care teams and families and difficulty predicting death timing were two frequently expressed challenges. Conclusions Study results emphasize the need for improved EOL counseling in DLB, recognition of EOL symptoms, earlier hospice involvement, tailoring EOL care to DLB-specific needs, and clinician-family communication. Suggestions for patient and family education are provided. Further research should confirm predictors of approaching EOL in DLB, identify strategies to improve physician recognition of EOL, and develop tools to aid communication and quality EOL care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)