Impact of a hospice emergency kit for veterans and their caregivers: A prospective cohort study

Academic Article


  • Background: Although hospice emergency kits (HEKs) are provided by many home hospice agencies, little is known about their use, side effects, and perceived impact. Objective: To evaluate HEK medication utilization, side effects, and impact as perceived by home hospice patients and their caregivers. Methods: We conducted a prospective longitudinal cohort study. Participants included 43 veterans and their family/caregivers referred to community home hospices with a Veterans Affairs (VA)-provided HEK. Measurements included patient/family reports based on weekly telephone interviews, electronic medical record (EMR) review, and after-death caregiver interviews. Results: The HEK was used by 27 of 43 patients/caregivers (62.8%). In 11 cases, they reported using the kit on more than one occasion. The most commonly used medications were morphine concentrate (30.2% of patients), lorazepam (20.9%), and levofloxacin (16.3%). In 15 cases (34.9%), the family thought the HEK may have helped the patient stay at home. Nineteen of the 43 patients made at least one visit to the emergency department (ED) and 22 were hospitalized. Most admissions through the ED were due to uncontrolled pain and/or gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea or bowel obstruction. In after-death interviews, opinions of the HEK were uniformly positive. Respondents described the HEK's usefulness and felt supported and empowered by its presence in the home. Minor side effects were reported in four cases. Conclusions: Findings provide promising evidence that HEKs are a feasible and well-tolerated method for achieving timely relief of emergent symptoms in home hospice patients and possibly avoiding unwanted ED visits and hospitalizations. © Copyright 2014, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2014.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bailey FA; Williams BR; Goode PS; Woodby LL; Granstaff US; Echt KV; Redden DT; Kvale E; Burgio KL
  • Start Page

  • 931
  • End Page

  • 938
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 8