Challenges that specialist palliative care nurses encounter when caring for patients with advanced dementia.
ABSTRACT Specialist palliative care (SPC) has expanded recently in Ireland to incorporate diseases other than cancer, including dementia. Two care areas that pose specific challenges for SPC nurses when caring for people with advanced dementia are pain and nutrition/hydration. Assessment and management of pain for a patient who has advanced dementia differs greatly from that for a typical palliative care patient. Similarly, nutrition and hydration pose extraordinary ethical and practical dilemmas not encountered when caring for a patient without dementia. This paper reports a literature review which revealed that although evidence-based information related to each of these areas is available, it tends to be written from the perspective of health professionals with an interest in dementia rather than from the perspective of the SPC nurse. SPC nurses require evidence-based palliative care research to guide their practice, but such research appears to be limited for patients with advanced dementia. Knowledge from specialists in both dementia care and palliative care needs to be combined if we are to provide these patients with the best possible end-of-life care. Further research is required and evidenced-based guidelines need to be formulated.