An exploratory qualitative study was undertaken with the aim of examining oral discomfort from the perspective of terminally ill patients. Interviews focusing on the experiences and perceptions of oral discomfort and effects on day-to-day functioning among 14 palliative care patients from a mid-size hospital in a regional city in Australia were conducted. The findings reveal that a range of oral problems significantly impact on the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of terminally ill patients to varying degrees, sometimes over extended periods of time. In particular, dry mouth (xerostomia) was experienced as a significantly troubling and ongoing symptom, and bouts of ulceration and infection were also commonly discussed. Furthermore, participants reported a lack of oral assessment and virtually no input from dental experts to assist with palliating oral problems. A better understanding of the impact of oral discomfort among terminally ill patients is a significant care issue for hospice and palliative care teams, especially nursing staff, and further research of this significant issue is required. The results of the current study provide preliminary evidence to support raising the clinical focus and priority of oral care for terminally ill patients in all settings.
International Journal of Palliative Nursing Vol. 16, Issue 9, p. 439-444