A survey of dying patients and their proxies suggests that pain and other alarming symptoms in the last year of life have increased from 1998 to 2010. The study is being published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Research has shown a high prevalence for troubling symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, and depression among dying patients. While a 1997 report by the Institute of Medicine emphasized the need for better care at the end of life, whether symptom management for dying patients has improved since then is not known. Researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative longitudinal survey of community-dwelling adults aged 51 and older, and proxy interviews to evaluate changes in pain intensity and symptom prevalence during the last year of life.
Participants were interviewed about their symptoms every two years from 1998 to 2010. After each participant’s death, a proxy most familiar with the patient was interviewed. Responses showed that pain and other alarming symptoms in the last year of life remained common throughout the study timeframe, suggesting persisting shortcomings in end-of-life care.
Article: Symptom Trends in the Last Year of Life From 1998 to 2010: A Cohort Study, A.E. Singer, D. Meeker, J.M. Teno, J. Lynn, J.R. Lunney, and K.A. Lorenz, Annals of Internal Medicine, doi: 10.7326/M13-1609, published 2 February 2015.
Source: American College of Physicians