PURPOSE: The authors tested whether a decision aid explaining how to discuss the approach of death with a family member with cancer would help family caregivers decide to discuss a terminal prognosis.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The authors randomly assigned caregivers of terminally ill patients with cancer to a group that received a video and a companion workbook that showed either how they can discuss the prognosis with their patient (experimental arm) or how cancer pain can be controlled (control arm). At baseline and 1 month, they evaluated the decision to discuss terminal prognosis as the primary outcome. At 0, 1, 3, and 6 months, we assessed the caregivers' decisional conflict and satisfaction as secondary outcomes using a Decision Conflict Scale (DCS).
RESULTS: They found no difference in changes in the decision to discuss terminal prognosis between the two groups. Conflict (P = .003), uncertainty (P = .019), and value clarity (P = .007) subscale scores and total DCS score (P = .008) improved from baseline to 1 month significantly more in the experimental arm than in the control arm. Over 6 months, the significant between-group differences continued for the conflict (P = .031), uncertainty (P = .014), and value clarity (P = .039) subscale scores and total DCS score (P = .040).
CONCLUSION: Decision aids can help caregivers, with the aid of trained professionals, to communicate with patients about their terminal illness.