BACKGROUND: Spiritual caregiving is part of palliative care and may contribute to well being at the end of life. However, it is a neglected area in the care and treatment of patients with dementia. We aimed to examine predictors of the provision of spiritual end-of-life care in dementia as perceived by physicians coordinating the care.
METHODS: We used data of the Dutch End of Life in Dementia study (DEOLD; 2007-2011), in which data were collected prospectively in 28 Dutch long-term care facilities. We enrolled newly admitted residents with dementia who died during the course of data collection, their families, and physicians. The outcome of Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) regression analyses was whether spiritual care was provided shortly before death as perceived by the on-staff elderly care physician who was responsible for end-of-life care (last sacraments or rites or other spiritual care provided by a spiritual counselor or staff). Potential predictors were indicators of high-quality, person-centered, and palliative care, demographics, and some other factors supported by the literature. Resident-level potential predictors such as satisfaction with the physician's communication were measured 8 weeks after admission (baseline, by families and physicians), physician-level factors such as the physician's religious background midway through the study, and facility-level factors such as a palliative care unit applied throughout data collection.
RESULTS: According to the physicians, spiritual end-of-life care was provided shortly before death to 20.8% (43/207) of the residents. Independent predictors of spiritual end-of-life care were: families' satisfaction with physicians' communication at baseline (OR 1.6, CI 1.0; 2.5 per point on 0-3 scale), and faith or spirituality very important to resident whether (OR 19, CI 5.6; 63) or not (OR 15, CI 5.1; 47) of importance to the physician. Further, female family caregiving was an independent predictor (OR 2.7, CI 1.1; 6.6).
CONCLUSIONS: Palliative care indicators were not predictive of spiritual end-of-life care; palliative care in dementia may need better defining and implementation in practice. Physician-family communication upon admission may be important to optimize spiritual caregiving at the end of life.