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Continuous sedation in dementia no guarantee of better death

Continuous deep sedation until death for nursing home residents with dementia does not always guarantee a dying process free of symptoms, say Belgian researchers.

They describe the experience of 11 residents with dementia and nine patients with advanced dementia who had been continuously and deeply sedated until death.

GPs, nurses and relatives most involved in the care of the resident were sent questionnaires regarding the clinical characteristics of the resident, how sedation was decided upon and performed, quality of care, and dying.

Relatives reported that five of the residents had one or more symptoms while dying. Nurses of three residents reported that the dying process was a struggle. For two residents, sedation was effective and the authors conclude the process 'might be amenable to improvement'.

The paper is published today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.