Doctors, nurses, and family caregivers worldwide are facing tough decisions concerning the supply and administration of medications to manage symptoms when patients are dying from covid-19 or other conditions in the community or care homes. Proposed changes in practice aimed at ensuring adequate end-of-life symptom control need careful consideration alongside appropriate training and support.
Updated UK advice, including NICE rapid guidance on managing covid-19 symptoms in the community, reiterates the importance of prescribing medications in advance of need for pain, nausea and vomiting, agitation, and respiratory secretions. These drugs may be administered if needed by visiting doctors or nurses, as is already well established in some countries. However, this practice is being overhauled radically in response to the pandemic.
Caregiving and bereavement outcomes are strongly influenced by socio-cultural context. Past research has found higher levels of caregiver burden and psychological morbidity in Portuguese compared to Brazilian caregivers. This study compared Brazilian and Portuguese family caregivers in palliative care to identify differences in psychological morbidity and caregiver burden and their relationship with psychosocial factors such as sociodemographic variables, circumstances of end-of-life care and dying, social support, family functioning, and perception of quality of care. Prospective data were collected from convenience samples of family caregivers in Brazil (T0 n = 60; T1 n = 35) and Portugal (T0 n = 75; T1 n = 29) at two separate time points—during caregiving (T0), and during the first two months of bereavement (T1). The study samples consisted mostly of women, offspring, and spouses. In both countries, family caregivers devoted most of their day to taking care of their sick relatives and reported a lack of practical support. Portuguese caregivers had higher levels of burden than Brazilian caregivers, and in both populations a greater burden was associated with more psychopathological symptoms. Higher caregiver burden among Portuguese caregivers was associated with the circumstances of death and the perceived lack of emotional support. Among Portuguese caregivers, symptomatology persisted during bereavement, reaching significantly higher levels of anxiety, somatization, and peritraumatic symptoms compared to the Brazilian sample. These results show differences between family caregiver samples in Portugal and Brazil during the bereavement process. Understanding the underlying cultural patterns and mechanisms requires future research.
Patients with dementia may be discharged from hospice if their condition stabilizes. The loss of professional support and an already complex grief process needs careful attention. A live discharge presents a unique experience for each hospice patient, caregiver, and hospice team, which varies from traditional bereavement theories used to describe the grieving process. This article explores live discharge from hospice for caregivers of adults with dementia through a theoretical lens of Symbolic Interactionism (SI) and Attachment Theory (AT). The theories of SI and AT support and assist in understanding the experience of caregivers who lose hospice support due to ineligibility. In addition, caregivers watch the gradual deterioration and psychological loss of someone with dementia while they remain alive described as an ambiguous loss. Ambiguous loss as a subset of traditional bereavement theories provides a framework for this exploration and provides a relevant illustration of the complex needs. This article will conclude with implications for social work practice. It is important for hospice clinicians to be aware of current termination practices necessary to manage appropriate attachments, support the symbolic meaning of the hospice experience, validate the ambiguous losses, and maintain a sense of hope through a live discharge from hospice.
Purpose: Gliomas are primary brain tumors with a life-limiting course of disease, and the last weeks of life are often characterized by neurological deficits that affect communication and personality. End-of-life treatment in this patient group therefore requires specific approaches. To date, little data is available on patients’ and caregivers’ needs and experiences in the last phase of the disease.
Methods: In this observational study, relatives of patients treated at the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland and deceased 2015–2017 due to glioma progression were contacted to complete a structured questionnaire assessing caregivers experience within the last weeks of the disease.
Results: The survey was sent to 120 relatives of deceased patients with a glioma (WHO grades II–IV) (median patient age: 62 years; 73.8% male). Forty-three questionnaires were returned (37.7%). Approximately half of the patients were taken care of at home in the last 4 weeks of the disease, mainly with the assistance of in-home nursing care, of which eventually 14 patients (63.6%) died at home. While caregivers reported high satisfaction with medical and nursing care, psychological support was rated average to poor on a 10-point scale. Free comment fields were used widely, revealing open questions and needs of the relatives.
Conclusions: This study illustrates the need for a more patient-centered end-of-life care including higher psychological support mechanisms, and a higher inclusion and consideration of relatives and caregivers into the care focus. Earlier discussion of end-of-life preferences could prevent hospitalizations in the last phase of life and could improve patients’ and caregivers’ quality of life.
Background: Caregivers are decision stakeholders; yet, few interventions have been developed to help patients and caregivers collaborate on advance care planning (ACP).
Objective: To evaluate a theory-based ACP pilot intervention, Deciding Together, to improve decisional quality, readiness, collaboration, and concordance in ACP decisions for older adult home health (HH) patients and caregivers.
Design: A one-group, pre- and posttest study using matched questionnaires was conducted. The intervention consisted of a clinical vignette, theoretically guided conversation prompts, and a shared decision-making activity.
Setting/Subjects:N = 36 participants (n = 18 HH patients; n = 18 family and nonfamily caregivers) were purposively recruited from a HH agency to participate in the intervention at patients' homes.
Measurements: Demographic and baseline measures were collected for relationship quality, health status, and previous ACP engagement. Outcome measures included perceptions of collaboration, readiness for ACP, concordance in life-sustaining treatment preferences (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, antibiotics, artificial nutrition and hydration, and mechanical ventilation), and decisional conflict. Descriptive statistics, Cohen's coefficients, paired t tests, McNemar's tests, and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests (and effect size estimates, r = z/vN) were calculated using R-3.5.1 (p < 0.05). Single value imputation was used for missing values.
Results: While no significant differences were found for perceptions of collaboration, and readiness for ACP, patients (r = 0.38, p = 0.02) and caregivers (r = 0.38, p = 0.02) had reduced decisional conflict at posttest. Patients' and caregivers' agreement increased by 27.7% for an item assessing patients' preference for artificial nutrition and hydration (p = 0.03).
Conclusions: This study suggests that collaborative ACP decision making may improve decisional conflict for older adult HH patients and their caregivers.
Family caregivers of people with dementia often must make crucial medical decisions for them that may increase the burden of care experienced. Although undertaking Advance Care Planning (ACP) might reduce their decision-making burden, completion rates remain very low. The present study aimed to explore the common beliefs of family caregivers of people with dementia about undertaking ACP for themselves. A qualitative study was conducted, using a semi-structured questionnaire based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 20 family caregivers of people with dementia in Israel. The behavioral beliefs expressed by the participants referred to the dual benefits of ACP, for the person who will not be able to make medical decisions at the end of life and for themselves. Participants mentioned that family members and friends were the main persons with whom they would consult in making decisions regarding ACP. Personal characteristics and instrumental factors were mentioned as enablers and barriers to undertaking ACP. Findings from the study provide an important basis for expanding research and for developing interventions that can encourage undertaking ACP.
Background: Interviews are a common method of data collection in palliative care research because they facilitate the gathering of rich, experiential data that are important for theory and practice. What is less clear is the extent to which those interviewed are representative of the larger group.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine if family caregivers who volunteer to be interviewed were similar or different to those who do not.
Design: This study used data from the Caregiving and Bereavement study, a prospective, longitudinal mixed-methods study of family caregivers' general health, quality of life, and grief.
Setting/Subjects: The 16 caregivers who volunteered to be interviewed were compared to the 20 who did not.
Measurements: Comparisons were made in terms of the caregivers' demographic characteristics as well as measures of their quality of life, general health, general grief, and caregiver prolonged grief (i.e., before death).
Results: Compared to caregivers who did not volunteer for an interview, those who volunteered were significantly older and reported less caregiver prolonged grief. Logistic regression showed that for each 1-unit increase in the caregiver prolonged grief score, individuals were 13% less likely to agree to an interview.
Conclusions: Research findings based upon family caregivers who volunteer for research interviews might not provide a full picture of their experiences and needs. Researchers are encouraged to consider strategies that sample broadly and promote the participation of the full range of family caregivers in research to address the neglected areas of pre- and postdeath bereavement care.
Importance: Family caregivers of persons with advanced heart failure perform numerous daily tasks to assist their relatives and are at high risk for distress and poor quality of life.
Objective: To determine the effect of a nurse-led palliative care telehealth intervention (Educate, Nurture, Advise, Before Life Ends Comprehensive Heart Failure for Patients and Caregivers [ENABLE CHF-PC]) on quality of life and mood of family caregivers of persons with New York Heart Association Class III/IV heart failure over 16 weeks.
Design, Setting, and Participants: This single-blind randomized clinical trial enrolled caregivers aged 18 years and older who self-identified as an unpaid close friend or family member who knew the patient well and who was involved with their day-to-day medical care. Participants were recruited from outpatient heart failure clinics at a large academic tertiary care medical center and a Veterans Affairs medical center from August 2016 to October 2018.
Intervention: Four weekly psychosocial and problem-solving support telephonic sessions lasting between 20 and 60 minutes facilitated by a trained nurse coach plus monthly follow-up for 48 weeks. The usual care group received no additional intervention.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcomes were quality of life (measured using the Bakas Caregiver Outcomes Scale), mood (anxiety and/or depressive symptoms measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and burden (measured using the Montgomery-Borgatta Caregiver Burden scales) over 16 weeks. Secondary outcomes were global health (measured using the PROMIS Global Health instrument) and positive aspects of caregiving.
Results: A total of 158 family caregivers were randomized, 82 to the intervention and 76 to usual care. The mean (SD) age was 57.9 (11.6) years, 135 (85.4%) were female, 82 (51.9%) were African American, and 103 (65.2%) were the patient’s spouse or partner. At week 16, the mean (SE) Bakas Caregiver Outcomes Scale score was 66.9 (2.1) in the intervention group and 63.9 (1.7) in the usual care group; over 16 weeks, the mean (SE) Bakas Caregiver Outcomes Scale score improved 0.7 (1.7) points in the intervention group and 1.1 (1.6) points in the usual care group (difference, -0.4; 95% CI, -5.1 to 4.3; Cohen d = -0.03). At week 16, no relevant between-group differences were observed between the intervention and usual care groups for the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale anxiety measure (mean [SE] improvement from baseline, 0.3 [0.3] vs 0.4 [0.3]; difference, -0.1 [0.5]; d = -0.02) or depression measure (mean [SE] improvement from baseline, -0.2 [0.4] vs -0.3 [0.3]; difference, 0.1 [0.5]; d = 0.03). No between-group differences were observed in the Montgomery-Borgatta Caregiver Burden scales (d range, -0.18 to 0.0). Differences in secondary outcomes were also not significant (d range, -0.22 to 0.0).
Conclusions and Relevance: This 2-site randomized clinical trial of a telehealth intervention for family caregivers of patients with advanced heart failure, more than half of whom were African American and most of whom were not distressed at baseline, did not demonstrate clinically better quality of life, mood, or burden compared with usual care over 16 weeks. Future interventions should target distressed caregivers and assess caregiver effects on patient outcomes.
Objectives: Family caregivers of people with dementia can experience loss and grief before death. We hypothesized that modifiable factors indicating preparation for end of life are associated with lower pre-death grief in caregivers.
Setting: Caregivers of people with dementia living at home or in a care home.
Participants: in total, 150 caregivers, 77% female, mean age 63.0 (SD = 12.1). Participants cared for people with mild (25%), moderate (43%), or severe dementia (32%).
Measurements: Primary outcome: Marwit-Meuser Caregiver Grief Inventory Short Form (MMCGI-SF). We included five factors reflecting preparation for end of life: (1) knowledge of dementia, (2) social support, (3) feeling supported by healthcare providers, (4) formalized end of life documents, and (5) end-of-life discussions with the person with dementia. We used multiple regression to assess associations between pre-death grief and preparation for end of life while controlling for confounders. We repeated this analysis with MMCGI-SF subscales (“personal sacrifice burden”; “heartfelt sadness”; “worry and felt isolation”).
Results: only one hypothesized factor (reduced social support) was strongly associated with higher grief intensity along with the confounders of female gender, spouse, or adult child relationship type and reduced relationship closeness. In exploratory analyses of MMCGI-SF subscales, one additional hypothesized factor was statistically significant; higher dementia knowledge was associated with lower “heartfelt sadness.”
Conclusion: We found limited support for our hypothesis. Future research may benefit from exploring strategies for enhancing caregivers’ social support and networks as well as the effectiveness of educational interventions about the progression of dementia.
Background: despite being a terminal neurodegenerative disease, the role of palliative care is less recognised for motor neurone disease than for other life-limiting conditions. Understanding the experiences of, and need for, palliative care for patients and carers is key to configuring optimal policy and healthcare services.
Aim: To explore the experiences of, and need for, palliative care of people with motor neurone disease and their informal carers across the disease trajectory.
Design: A systematic review of qualitative research conducted using Thematic Synthesis – PROSPERO registration CRD42017075311.
Data Sources: four electronic databases were searched (MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index) using terms for motor neurone disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, palliative care, and qualitative research, from inception to November 2018. Included papers were data extracted and assessed for quality.
Results: A total of 41 papers were included, representing the experiences of 358 people with motor neurone disease and 369 caregivers. Analytical themes were developed detailing patients’ and carers’ experiences of living with motor neurone disease and of palliative care through its trajectory including response to diagnosis, maintaining control, decision-making during deterioration, engaging with professionals, planning for end-of-life care, bereavement.
Conclusion: The review identified a considerable literature exploring the care needs of people with motor neurone disease and their carers; however, descriptions of palliative care were associated with the last days of life. Across the disease trajectory, clear points were identified where palliative care input could enhance patient and carer experience of the disease, particularly at times of significant physical change.
Context: Advance care planning (ACP) is used to prepare patients and caregivers for future “in the moment” decisions at the end-of-life. Patients with cancer generally do not engage in all 3 components of ACP (documented living will, health-care surrogate, end-of-life discussions); however, little is known about the impact of these varying levels of ACP engagement on caregivers postdeath.
Objective: To examine the relationship between varying levels of ACP engagement and caregivers’ perceptions of cancer decedents’ end-of-life experiences.
Methods: A secondary analysis of the 2002 to 2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study data using structural equation modeling was conducted. Five levels of ACP engagement were defined: full (discussions/documents), augmented discussions, documents only, discussions only, and no engagement.
Results: Among the 2172 cancer death cases, the analyzed sample included 983 cases where end-of-life decisions occurred. Compared to no ACP, all levels of ACP were significantly associated with caregivers’ positive perceptions of cancer decedents’ end-of-life experiences (P = .001), controlling for sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity (R 2 = .21). However, the relative impact of each level of ACP engagement was not equal; full engagement (ß = .61) was associated with a greater impact compared to each of the partial levels of engagement (augmented discussions [ß = .33], documents only [ß = .17], discussions only [ß = .17]).
Conclusion: Partial ACP engagement, not just nonengagement, serves as an important clinically modifiable target to improve the end-of-life care experience among patients with cancer and the perceptions of those experiences among bereaved caregivers.
Purpose: The responsibility of taking care of terminal patients is accepted as a role of family members in Taiwan. Only a few studies have focused on the effect of palliative care consultation service (PCCS) on caregiver burden between terminal cancer family caregivers (CFCs) and non-cancer family caregivers (NCFCs). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to address the effect of PCCS on caregiver burden between CFC and NCFC over time.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study was conducted in a medical center in northern Taiwan from July to November 2017. The participants were both terminally ill cancer and non-cancer patients who were prepared to receive PCCS, as well as their family caregivers. Characteristics including family caregivers and terminal patients and Family Caregiver Burden Scale (FCBS) were recorded pre-, 7, and 14 days following PCCS. A generalized estimating equation model was used to analyze the change in the level of family caregiver burden (FCB) between CFC and NCFC.
Results: The study revealed that there were no statistically significant differences in FCB between CFC and NCFC 7 days and 14 days after PCCS (p > 0.05). However, FCB significantly decreased in both CFC and NCFC from pre-PCCS to 14 days after PCCS (ß = - 12.67, p = 0.013). PPI of patients was the key predictor of FCB over time following PCCS (ß = 1.14, p = 0.013).
Conclusions: This study showed that PCCS can improve FCB in not only CFC but also NCFC. We suggest that PCCS should be used more widely in supporting family caregivers of terminally ill patients to reduce caregiver burden.
Les causes de rupture du maintien au domicile de personnes en fin de vie sont souvent liées à l’épuisement des proches et au sentiment d’insécurité. L’objectif de cette étude est de connaître les attentes envers le médecin généraliste (MG) de l’aidant principal d’une personne en phase palliative avancée au domicile. Il s’agit d’une étude qualitative sur la base de dix entretiens semi-directifs menés avec un guide d’entretien auprès de proches de personnes décédées. Les enregistrements ont fait l’objet d’une analyse de contenu. Les principales attentes envers le MG concernent sur le plan technique, un ajustement des thérapeutiques ; sur le plan organisationnel, une disponibilité importante ainsi qu’un lien entretenu avec les différents intervenants et les structures notamment de soins palliatifs ; sur le plan relationnel, une écoute et une information sur l’évolution de la maladie ; sur le plan décisionnel, le respect de la volonté du patient. Les résultats sont discutés à partir de trois concepts adaptés au MG, à savoir la capacité d’adaptation de sa pratique et de son savoir-être, l’anticipation des situations d’urgence et de l’évolution de la maladie, et enfin l’assurance d’une continuité des soins qui passe notamment par leur permanence et leur coordination. Les moyens dont dispose le MG paraissent insuffisants pour assurer le maintien à domicile devant la charge que représente un patient en phase palliative avancée. La diffusion de la démarche palliative au domicile et l’optimisation de l’interprofessionnalité auprès des personnes en fin de vie au domicile et de leurs proches sont à développer. L’enjeu est le respect de la demande du patient de mourir à son domicile.
In the current ecology of care, social, rather than medical, support is critical in enabling frail older people to live at home. This paper reports findings from a qualitative study about how home care workers (HCWs) support persons with dementia living in the community. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out in England with 14 family care-givers (FCGs) recruited from a single private home care provider. A thematic analysis of the data was undertaken using the constant comparative method. In every instance, it was FCGs who initiated domiciliary care for the person with dementia, highlighting ambiguity about who is the ‘client’. Rather than focusing on the HCWs’ work in undertaking practical tasks and personal care, respondents prioritised HCWs as companions, providing emotional and social support for their relatives. From an organisational perspective, respondents valued the capacity of the provider to deliver a consistent, personal, reliable and punctual service. These attributes were important in supporting their relative's agency and dignity. Respondents described HCWs engaging in skilled and sensitive communication with clients but considered ‘character’ and ‘innate’ caring abilities to be more important than those derived from training. The results highlight the need to acknowledge the family, rather than the individual client, as the functioning unit of care, and to recognise the highly skilled communicative and emotional work undertaken by HCWs.
BACKGROUND: Since people with advanced dementia are usually not able to make complex decisions, it is usually the family caregivers, as proxies, who have to decide on treatments and their termination. However, these decisions are difficult for the caregivers to make, as they are often inadequately informed and cannot properly assess the consequences; moreover, they are concerned about harming the sick person. We aimed to first develop an informative booklet about palliative care issues for caregivers of people with advanced dementia. Secondly, we aimed to investigate a change in family caregivers' knowledge regarding palliative care issues and caregivers' involvement in medical and care decisions before and after studying this booklet.
METHODS: A first version of the booklet was drafted by an experienced psychiatrist and palliative care specialist based on existing booklets and guidelines; necessary cultural adaptions were taken into consideration. A nominal group process was conducted to develop the informative guide. In order to investigate the acceptance of the booklet and the possibility to implement it, 38 patient-caregiver dyads were recruited, and caregivers were interviewed both before receiving the booklet and after 3 months of receiving the booklet.
RESULTS: Experts from various disciplines collaborated on a German booklet for family caregivers of people with advanced dementia as an information aid regarding issues of palliative care. The subsequent test showed that all caregivers had experienced a personal benefit from the booklet. Caregivers had a significant gain of knowledge after provision of the booklet. A large proportion of caregivers who had not previously considered and/or discussed medical topics reported that they had done so within 3 months after obtaining the booklet, or planned to do so in the near future.
CONCLUSIONS: The caregivers valued the comprehensible, concise and well-structured information guide on palliative care issues in advanced dementia. They agreed it increases knowledge and prompts decision making and therefore should be developed in many languages and disseminated among family caregivers of people with dementia.
Community health-care services for older, home-dwelling persons with dementia tend to be underutilised. Family care-givers provide substantial care, and they often arrange for and co-ordinate health-care services on behalf of persons with dementia. The aim of this study was to examine family care-givers’ knowledge of unused services and their self-reported reasons for non-use of such services. We gathered cross-sectional survey data from 430 family care-givers of older persons with dementia in Northern Norway. Multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to identify predictors of family care-givers’ knowledge of unused services. An open-ended question regarding reasons for non-use of services was analysed by thematic text analysis. Characteristics of family care-givers (e.g. education level) and factors related to the care-giving circumstances (e.g. negative impact of care-giving) predicted family care-givers’ knowledge of unused services. Reasons for non-use of services were multifaceted and complex, and were related to attributes of the person with dementia and/or the family care-giver (e.g. reluctance to use services) and/or the health-care services (e.g. low quality). Although services were unused, several family care-givers indicated substantial needs for the services. Strategies aimed at addressing the non-use of services should emphasise individuals’ and families’ needs and the adaptation of information about available services and their benefits for both care recipients and family care-givers. A relationship-centred care approach is thus recommended in dementia care.
OBJECTIVES: Goal concordant or congruent care involves having expressed wishes upheld. Yet, the preferred location for end-of-life care may be unaddressed. Caregiver-patient congruence between preferred and actual locations of care may influence the quality of life in bereavement. The study aimed to explore how the congruence between caregiver-patient preferred and actual locations of death influenced well-being in bereavement.
METHODS: Mixed methods were employed. In-depth in-person interviews were conducted with 108 bereaved caregivers of a hospice patient about 4 months after the death. An interview guide was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data: demographics, decision-making, Core Bereavement Items (CBI), Health Related Quality of Life, and perspectives on the end-of-life experiences. Data were analyzed with a convergent mixed methods one-phase process.
RESULTS: Patient preference-actual location congruence occurred for 53%; caregiver preference-actual location congruence occurred for 74%; caregiver-patient preference and location of death occurred for 48%. Participants who reported some type of incongruence demonstrated higher levels of distress, including more days of being physically and emotionally unwell and more intense bereavement symptoms. The Acute Separation subscale and CBI total scores demonstrated significant differences for participants who experienced incongruence compared with those who did not. Preference location congruence themes emerged: (1) caregiver-patient location congruence, (2) caregiver-patient location incongruence, and (3) location informed bereavement.
CONCLUSIONS: Congruence between a dying person's preferred and actual locations at death has been considered good care. There has been little focus on the reciprocity between caregiver-patient wishes. Discussing preferences about the place of end-stage care may not make location congruence possible, but it can foster shared understanding and support for caregivers' sense of coherence and well-being in bereavement.
OBJECTIVE: Although the psychometric properties of the Family Satisfaction with End-of-Life Care measure have been examined in diverse settings internationally; little evidence exists regarding measurement equivalence in Hispanic caregivers. The aim was to examine the psychometric properties of a short-form of the FAMCARE in Hispanics using latent variable models and place information on differential item functioning (DIF) in an existing family satisfaction item bank.
METHOD: The graded form of the item response theory model was used for the analyses of DIF; sensitivity analyses were performed using a latent variable logistic regression approach. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses to examine dimensionality were performed within each subgroup studied. The sample included 1,834 respondents: 317 Hispanic and 1,517 non-Hispanic White caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease and cancer, respectively.
RESULTS: There was strong support for essential unidimensionality for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic White subgroups. Modest DIF of low magnitude and impact was observed; flagged items related to information sharing. Only 1 item was flagged with significant DIF by both a primary and sensitivity method after correction for multiple comparisons: "The way the family is included in treatment and care decisions." This item was more discriminating for the non-Hispanic, White responders than for the Hispanic subsample, and was also a more severe indicator at some levels of the trait; the Hispanic respondents located at higher satisfaction levels were more likely than White non-Hispanic respondents to report satisfaction.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The magnitude of DIF was below the salience threshold for all items. Evidence supported the measurement equivalence and use for cross-cultural comparisons of the short-form FAMCARE among Hispanic caregivers, including those interviewed in Spanish.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of patients with severe illness and in need for a palliative care approach, face numerous challenges and report having insufficient preparedness for the caregiver role as well as a need for information and psychosocial support. Preparing to care for a severely ill family members also means becoming aware of death. Feelings of being prepared are associated with positive aspects and regarded protective against negative health consequences.
METHODS: The study adheres to the SPIRIT-guidelines (Supplementary 1), uses a pre-post design and include a web-based intervention. Inclusion criteria are; being a family caregiver of a patient with severe illness and in need of a palliative care approach. The intervention which aims to increase preparedness for caregiving and death is grounded in theory, research and clinical experience. The topics cover: medical issues, symptoms and symptom relief; communication within the couple, how to spend the time before death, being a caregiver, planning for the moment of death and; considerations of the future. The intervention is presented through videos and informative texts. The website also holds an online peer-support discussion forum. Study aims are to: evaluate feasibility in terms of framework, content, usage and partners' experiences; explore how the use of the website, influences family caregivers' preparedness for caregiving and death; explore how the use of the website influences family caregivers' knowledge about medical issues, their communication with the patient and their considerations of the future; and to investigate how the family caregivers' preparedness for caregiving and death influences their physical and psychological health and quality of life 1 year after the patient's death. Data will be collected through qualitative interviews and a study-specific questionnaire at four time-points.
DISCUSSION: This project will provide information about whether support via a website has the potential to increase preparedness for caregiving and death and thereby decrease negative health consequences for family caregivers of patients affected by severe illness. It will provide new knowledge about intervention development, delivery, and evaluation in a palliative care context. Identification of factors before death and their association with family caregivers' preparedness and long-term health may change future clinical work.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: The study is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03676283.