Objective: To compare symptom prevalence and relief in residents who died in nursing homes with residents who were acutely referred to hospitals. Design: Data on symptoms during the last week of life from the Swedish Register of Palliative Care (SRPC). Setting and Subjects: Nursing homes (n = 1903 deaths) and hospitals in Sweden (n = 202 nursing home residents who were admitted to hospital before death). Data were retrieved on August 24, 2020. Results: Residents who died in hospitals had more breakthrough symptoms of breathlessness (60% vs. 31%, p < 0.0001) and delirium (41% vs. 25%, p < 0.0001) than those who died in nursing homes. When symptoms were present, complete symptom relief was seen less often in hospitals compared with nursing homes (breathlessness, 28% vs. 47%, p < 0.001; delirium, 10% vs. 35%, p < 0.0001; respiratory secretions, 30% vs. 55%, p < 0.0001). Conclusion: Despite access to oxygen and pharmacologic/nonpharmacologic therapies in hospitals, symptom relief in dying nursing home residents acutely admitted to hospitals was lower compared with those who died in nursing homes, possibly because of differences in patient characteristics.
Keywords: COVID-19; breathlessness; dying; elderly patient population; nursing home patients; symptom relief.