Societies in the EU are aging. This leads to the need to improve health through prevention, yet also to enhance quality of life and quality of dying. The proportion of the world’s population of over 60 years old is expected to rise considerably. Also, the elderly population will die more often with generalized frailty or neurological failure, following a slow dying course with multiple chronic diseases and years of disability and complex palliative care needs. These developments have enormous clinical, societal and socio-economic implications common to all EU countries.
Whilst many countries aim to enable people to live in their own homes, many older people will require long term institutional care at the end of life. Also, a significant proportion eventually dies in care or nursing homes. Despite these well-known facts, palliative care has only recently been introduced in such facilities.
The main strategic scientific aims are trifold. The PACE consortium consisting of 8 research institutes, spanning 6 European countries, and 4 European organizations responsible for impact and dissemination, will perform 3 studies. First of all PACE will map palliative care systems in care or nursing homes in Europe. Secondly, the consortium will perform a large-scale representative study to examine quality of dying and palliative care in care or nursing homes in Europe. Last, PACE will study the impact of an innovative trial ‘PACE Steps to Success’ which aims to improve the quality of palliative care
The overall aim of the PACE project is to inform and assist policy and decision-makers at national and European levels. Therefore, PACE will develop specific tools and products to assist them in making evidence-based decisions on optimal palliative care delivery in LTCFs. PACE will help to achieve the objectives of the European 2020 Strategy, specifically the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Ultimately, this will lead to optimizing the delivery of palliative care to the large proportion of elderly EU citizens.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is defined by the WHO as a multidisciplinary approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual/existential problems. While palliative care was foremost offered to cancer patients in the past, it has been recognized that older people with age-related, chronic and mental health problems can also benefit from an early integration of a palliative care approach in the disease management.