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Increase in Reports of Pain and Other Troubling Symptoms in Last Year of Life

Interviews with bereaved family members reveal increase in reports of pain and other troubling symptoms in last year of life between 1998 and 2010.

Summary:  Despite national efforts to improve end-of-life care, it is not known whether symptom management for dying patients has improved over time. To examine changes in symptom burden during the last year of life, researchers analyzed interviews with bereaved family members of 7,204 patients across the U.S. who died between 1998 and 2010. From 1998 and 2010, proxy reports of serious pain and many other distressing symptoms became more common near the end of life. For example, the prevalence of pain increased from 54.3 percent to 60.8 percent between 1998 and 2010, and the prevalence of depression and periodic confusion also increased. These findings highlight the continued need to focus on symptom management at the end of life.

Abstract: Singer AE, Meeker D, Teno JM, Lynn J, Lunney JR, Lorenz KA. Symptom trends in the last year of life from 1998 to 2010: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Feb 3;162(3):175-83. PMID: 25643305

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