Pneumonia in Nursing Home Patients With Advanced Dementia: Decisions, Intravenous Rehydration Therapy, and Discomfort

Jenny T. van der Steen, Jenny T. van der Steen, Paola Di Giulio, Paola Di Giulio, Fabrizio Giunco, Massimo Monti, Simona Gentile, Daniele Villani, Silvia Finetti, Francesca Pettenati, Lorena Charrier, Franco Toscani, EoLO-PSODEC) Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. Background: Comfort may be an appropriate goal in advanced dementia. Longitudinal studies on physician decision-making and discomfort assessed by direct observation are rare, and intravenous rehydration therapy is controversial. Methods: To assess treatment decisions and discomfort in patients with advanced dementia and pneumonia and to compare by intravenous rehydration therapy, we used data from the observational multicenter Italian End of Life Observatory–Prospective Study On DEmentia patients Care. We analyzed 109 episodes of pneumonia, which involved decisions in 77 nursing home patients with Functional Assessment Staging Tool stage 7. We assessed decisions, decision-making, and treatments every fortnight. Trained observers assessed discomfort with the Discomfort Scale–Dementia Alzheimer Type (DS-DAT). Results: Most decisions referred to treatment with antibiotics (90%; 98 of 109) and intravenous rehydration therapy (53%; 58 of 109), but hospitalization was rare (1%). Selecting decisions with antibiotics, with rehydration therapy, the prognosis was more frequently <15 days (34% vs 5% without rehydration therapy; P =.001), and a goal to reduce symptoms/suffering was more common (96% vs 74%; P =.005) while there was no difference in striving for life prolongation (a minority). With rehydration therapy, the decision was more often discussed with family rather than communicated only. Mean DS-DAT scores over time proximate to the first decision ranged between 9.2 and 10.5. Conclusions: Italian nursing home patients with advanced dementia and pneumonia frequently received invasive rehydration therapy in addition to antibiotics, however, mostly with a palliative intent. Discomfort was high overall and symptom relief may be improved. Relations between invasive rehydration therapy and discomfort need further study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018


  • comfort
  • dementia
  • fluid therapy
  • long-term care
  • palliative care
  • pneumonia


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