Palliative care patients who receive psychological, emotional and spiritual support are more likely to elect hospice when they become eligible.
Researchers in Israel studied 180 hospitalized cancer patients between November 2018 and March 2020. They found that patients who utilized social worker, psychologist and/or chaplain services chose to forgo aggressive treatments in their final days more often than those who had not, according to results published in the journal Oncology.
“Patients with cancer who availed themselves of the spiritual care, psychology, and social work services, each profession in distinct ways, had significantly different outcomes in their end-of-life medical treatment, including undergoing fewer futile aggressive measures, having more time after their last active treatment, and using hospice services more,” the study concluded. “These outcomes directly bear on improved quality of life and reduced costs.”
Among the study group, women were more likely to use psychology and spiritual care than men, and patients with Jewish parents born in Israel were more likely to receive spiritual care.
Researchers identified 10 predictors that contribute to reductions in aggressive treatments at the end-of-life. The most significant factor was having a palliative care consultation with a physician following a terminal diagnosis, according to the study.
Patients who had discussed their interpersonal relationships with a psychologist, had a palliative care consult and spent more time with family had the longest periods of time between cessation of active treatment and their deaths.
“This study potentially demonstrates the direct impact of social workers, spiritual caregivers and psychologists on patients’ palliative medical outcomes, beyond generally reducing suffering and improving [quality of life],” the study authors indicated.