LOS ANGELES — A surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes are suffering from futile care at the end of their lives, two new federally funded studies reveal.
One found that putting nursing home residents with failing kidneys on dialysis didn't improve their quality of life and may even push them into further decline. The other showed many with advanced dementia will die within six months and perhaps should have hospice care instead of aggressive treatment.
Medical experts say the new research emphasizes the need for doctors, caregivers and families to consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible – more like the palliative care given to terminally ill cancer patients.
"We probably need to be offering a palliative care option to many more patients to make the last days of their lives as comfortable as possible," said Dr. Mark Zeidel of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was not involved in the studies.
Palliative care focuses on managing symptoms of a disease and a main goal is to relieve pain at the end of life.