BACKGROUND: Caring for someone with dementia can be physically and emotionally difficult. Acting as a caregiver can make it difficult to access sources of support, particularly in the later stages of dementia. This paper reports the development and presents the targets (subject areas) and components of a prototype website to support family caregivers of a person with dementia towards the end of life.
METHODS: Adopting an iterative approach and co-production methods the development process consisted of four stages: Stage1-Synthesis of data: three sources of data (interviews, systematic review and theory) were synthesised using tabulation, to identify the targets of the prototype; Stage2-Identifying intervention targets and components: a research development group (health practitioners, a family caregiver and academic experts) met to discuss the development, using a modified nominal group process, refining the synthesis from stage 1; Stage3-Developing the intervention prototype: an outline of the prototype was developed based on stage 1 and 2; and Stage4-User testing: interviews with caregivers testing the prototype website.
RESULTS: Qualitative interviews with caregivers identified four targets for the intervention: 1) feeling prepared and equipped; 2) feeling connected and supported; 3) valuing themselves as a caregiver and as an individual; 4) maintaining control of the caring situation and being the coordinator of care. The systematic review provided evidence on how and what components could address these targets, including providing information, peer support, contact with professionals, and psychological support. Theory helped to narrow the focus within each of these targets. Active discussion with the research development group and end users provided an outline of the prototype website. The prototype website presented addresses these targets with written information, videos from other caregivers, and peer and professional support sections. The subject areas covered included expectations at the end of life, support with day-to-day caring, care planning, and communication.
CONCLUSIONS: This paper provides a detailed account of the development process of a prototype website for caregiver support. The transparent methodology and key lessons learnt from developing the prototype should help those who are developing similar interventions, across complex, progressive conditions and not just limited to dementia.
Background: Research indicates that informal caregiving can have intense physical and mental impact on the individual. Relative to caregivers of adults, pediatric palliative caregivers appear less in literature despite experiencing greater mental, physical, financial, and social strain. There is limited research on the creation and evaluation of interventions specifically for this population despite clear need.
Objective:This study aims to evaluate the feasibility and engagement of the Photographs of Meaning Program, a modified meaning-making intervention for pediatric palliative caregivers.
Design:Participants completed a pre-post intervention meaning-in-life measure. Over a 9-week period, participants followed a meaning-making curriculum whereby they created and shared photo narratives via social media. As part of the intervention, a community photo exhibition was held featuring these photo narratives. Exit interviews were also conducted at study close.
Setting/Participants:Nine individuals providing informal care to children in a pediatric palliative care program participated in the intervention. All participants were female and are older than 18 years. Settings for research include participant homes and at The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, New York.
Results: Participants posted 95 photographs and 96 narratives during the intervention, posting on average once each week. Statistical analysis within the small sample indicated an increased presence of meaning in the lives of participants (P = .022). Exit interviews conveyed satisfaction with the intervention.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that the Photographs of Meaning Program is a practical intervention with life-enhancing potential for pediatric palliative. Future research should aim to collect additional evidence of the intervention's effectiveness.
BACKGROUND: Health care professionals should prevent and relieve suffering in carers of patients with advanced cancer. Despite known positive effects of systematic carer support, carers still do not receive sufficient support. Carers have reported to be less satisfied with coordination of care and involvement of the family in treatment and care decisions than patients. In a rural district of Mid-Norway, cancer palliative care services across specialist and community care were developed. Participants' experiences and opinions were investigated as part of this development process.
METHODS: The aim of this qualitative study was to explore and describe health care professionals' experiences with carer support from their own perspective. Data were collected in focus groups. Purposeful sampling guided the inclusion. Six groups were formed with 21 professionals. The discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using systematic text condensation.
RESULTS: In the analyzis of the focus group discussions, ten categories emerged from the exploration of health care professionals' carer support, assessment of needs, and factors hampering carer support: 1) dependent on profession, role, and context, 2) personal relationship, 3) personal skills and competence, 4) adjusted to the stage of the disease, 5) informal assessment of carers' needs, 6) lack of education 7) lack of systems for carer consultations, 8) lack of systems for documentation, 9) lack of systems for involving GPs, and 10) lack of systematic spiritual care.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care professionals built a personal relationship with the carers as early as possible, to facilitate carer support throughout the disease trajectory. Systematic carer support was hampered by lack of education and system insufficiencies. Organizational changes were needed, including 1) education in carer support, communication, and spiritual care, 2) use of standardized care pathways, including systematic carer needs assessment, 3) systematic involvement of general practitioners, and 4) a system for documentation of clinical work with carers.
Nurses who care for patients with life-limiting illness operate at the interface of family caregivers (FCGs), patients, and prescribers and are uniquely positioned to guide late-life medication management, including challenging discussions about deprescribing. The study objective was to describe nurses’ perspectives about their role in hospice FCG medication management. Content analysis was used to analyze qualitative interviews with nurses from a parent study exploring views on medication management and deprescribing for advanced cancer patients. Ten home and inpatient hospice nurses, drawn from 3 hospice agencies and their referring hospital systems in New England, were asked to describe current practices of medication management and deprescribing and to evaluate a pilot tool to standardize hospice medication review. Analysis of the 10 interviews revealed that hospice nurses are receptive to a standardized approach for comprehensive medication review upon hospice transition and responded favorably to opportunities to discuss medication discontinuation with FCGs and prescribers. Effective framing for discussions included focus on reducing harmful and nonessential medications and reducing caregiver burden. Results indicate that nurses who care for hospice-eligible and enrolled patients are willing to discuss deprescribing with FCGs and prescribers when conversations are framed around medication harms and their impact on quality of life.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of people at the end of life can face significant financial burden. While appropriate financial support can reduce the burden for family caregivers, little is known about the range and adequacy of financial support, welfare and benefits for family caregivers across countries with similarly developed health care systems.
AIM: The aim is o identify and compare sources of financial support for family caregivers of people approaching the end of life, across six countries with similarly performing health care systems (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States).
DESIGN: A survey of financial support, welfare and benefits for end of life family caregivers was completed by 99 palliative care experts from the six countries. Grey literature searches and academic database searches were also conducted. Comparative analyses of all data sources documented financial support within and between each country.
RESULTS: Some form of financial support for family caregivers is available in all six countries; however the type, extent and reach of support vary. Financial support is administered by multiple agencies, eligibility criteria for receiving support are numerous and complex, and there is considerable inequity in the provision of support.
CONCLUSION: Numerous barriers exist to the receipt of financial support, welfare and benefits. We identified several areas of concern, including a lack of clarity around eligibility, inconsistent implementation, complexity in process and limited support for working carers. Nonetheless, there is significant potential for policymakers to learn from other countries' experiences, particularly with regard to the scope and operationalisation of financial support.
Background: End-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs) are prevalent experiences that provide comfort and meaning to dying individuals. Limited research has examined the impact of ELDVs on the bereaved.
Objective: This study aimed to explore differences in self-reported grief for people whose loved ones shared ELDVs and those who did not, and to describe the role of ELDVs in the grieving process.
Design: Mixed-methods cross-sectional survey.
Settings/Subjects: A total of 228 bereaved family caregivers (FCGs) of patients who died while under the care of a comprehensive hospice program were recruited.
Measurements: Demographics and ELDV prevalence were collected. Bereavement was assessed using the Core Bereavement Items (CBI) a validated measure. Impact on grief was also evaluated using an ad hoc tool.
Results: Comfort from dreams significantly related to total CBI score (r = 0.224, p = 0.047) as well as the images and thoughts (r = 0.258, p = 0.025) and acute separation subscales (r = 0.224, p = 0.047). Comfort from dreams had a positive relationship with accepting the reality of loss (r = -0.511, p < 0.001), working through the pain of grief (r = -0.556, p < 0.001), adjusting to the new environment (r = -0.405, p = 0.001), and continuing bonds (r = -0.538, p < 0.001). CBI scores were not significantly different between caregivers who reported loved ones with ELDVs and others. Open-ended responses were thematically analyzed resulting in three emergent themes: comfort, reflection and emotions, and sense-making.
Conclusions: ELDVs' impact extends beyond those experiencing them to bereaved loved ones. Bereaved FCGs report that comforting ELDVs experienced by their dying loved ones influenced their grief process in terms of the Worden's tasks of mourning.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine the preferences of home caregivers on patient advance care planning (ACP), including life-sustaining treatment (LST) and the factors relating to these preferences.
BACKGROUND: Personalized ACP aims to respect the autonomy and choices of terminally ill patients regarding end-of-life care. However, there have been cases wherein doctors must instead discuss ACP with surrogates (including caregivers) for various reasons such as dementia, intractable neurologic diseases, and cerebrovascular accident.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, self-written questionnaires (filled by individuals themselves) were distributed to 506 in-home caregivers in 6 Japanese prefectures; the questionnaires contained items on caregiver and patient demographics, number of people living together in a caregiver's home (aside from patients), care duration, comprehension level of doctors' explanations regarding their patient's condition, patient diseases, whether caregivers have or have not told patients about their disease, level of nursing care, and caregiver LST preference (preferred or not preferred). The questionnaire package also contained the Burden Index of Caregiver-11, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and Short Form-8 Health Survey.
RESULTS: Valid responses were obtained from 309 caregivers. More than half of them were not sure of their patient's LST preference. Sex, number of people living together in a care home, comprehension level of doctors' explanations, and care duration were found to be the significant factors relating to caregivers' LST preference (P < .05).
CONCLUSION: Health providers should be cognizant of the background factors relating to caregiver ACP preference when deciding on LST for terminal patients.
PURPOSE: Many patients with advanced cancer receive primary supports from informal caregivers (IC). As patient health deteriorates, IC assume increasing responsibility, often accompanied by distress. We investigated the quality of life (QOL) of IC of patients referred to a palliative radiotherapy (PRT) program.
METHODS: IC accompanying patients to a dedicated PRT clinic completed a survey based on the validated Caregiver Quality of Life Index-Cancer (CQOLC). Demographics, burden, and engagement in support services were evaluated. Summary statistics were calculated, and parameters were assessed for association with CQOLC scores by a generalized linear model.
RESULTS: Two hundred one surveys were analyzed representing 197 unique patients. The mean age was 68.3 years, with predominantly lung (25.0%) and prostate (19.3%) malignancies. 24.4% had been in hospital/long-term care within the previous 7 days. IC were 60.8% female, and 60.6% were the patient's spouse. 69.5% lived with the patient and 38.3% were additionally employed. IC spent a daily mean of 6.6 h (SD 7) assisting with instrumental (72.5%) and basic (37.5%) activities of daily living. Mean CQOLC score was 82.1/140 (SD 20). 63.8% of IC had previously accessed support service(s), most commonly home care (37.2%) and pharmacy (29.1%). 55.9% indicated interest in services not yet accessed. Multivariate analysis revealed additional employment, cohabitation, poor patient performance status, and interest in accessing more support services significantly correlated with higher IC burden.
CONCLUSIONS: Employing the CQOLC to screen IC of patients referred to a PRT program permits early identification of vulnerable IC to facilitate linkage with appropriate supports.
OBJECTIVES: Concerns have repeatedly been raised about end-of-life decision making when a patient with diminished capacity is represented by a professional guardian, a paid official appointed by a judge. Such guardians are said to choose high-intensity treatment even when it is unlikely to be beneficial or to leave pivotal decisions to the court. End-of-life decision making by professional guardians has not been examined systematically, however.
DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.
SETTING: Inpatient and outpatient facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Connecticut Healthcare System.
PARTICIPANTS: Decedent patients represented by professional guardians who received care at Connecticut VA facilities from 2003 to 2013 and whose care in the last month of life was documented in the VA record.
MEASUREMENTS: Through chart reviews, we collected data about the guardianship appointment, the patient's preferences, the guardian's decision-making process, and treatment outcomes.
RESULTS: There were 33 patients with professional guardians who died and had documentation of their end-of-life care. The guardian sought judicial review for 33%, and there were delays in decision making for 42%. In the last month of life, 29% of patients were admitted to the intensive care unit, intubated, or underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation; 45% received hospice care. Judicial review and high-intensity treatment were less common when information about the patient's preferences was available.
CONCLUSION: Rates of high-intensity treatment and hospice care were similar to older adults overall. Because high-intensity treatment was less likely when the guardian had information about a patient's preferences, future work should focus on advance care planning for individuals without an appropriate surrogate.
BACKGROUND: Funding shortages and an ageing population have increased pressures on state or insurance funded end of life care for older people. Across the world, policy debate has arisen about the potential role volunteers can play, working alongside health and social care professionals in the community to support and care for the ageing and dying.
AIMS: The authors examined self-reported levels of care for the elderly by the public in England, and public opinions of community volunteering concepts to care for the elderly at the end of life. In particular, claimed willingness to help and to be helped by local people was surveyed.
METHODS: A sample of 3,590 adults in England aged 45 or more from an online access panel responded to a questionnaire in late 2017. The survey data was weighted to be representative of the population within this age band. Key literature and formative qualitative research informed the design of the survey questionnaire, which was further refined after piloting.
RESULTS: Preferences for different models of community volunteering were elicited. There was a preference for 'formal' models with increased wariness of 'informal' features. Whilst 32% of adults said they 'might join' depending on whom the group helped, unsurprisingly more personal and demanding types of help significantly reduced the claimed willingness to help. Finally, willingness to help (or be helped) by local community carers or volunteers was regarded as less attractive than care being provided by personal family, close friends or indeed health and care professionals.
CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that if community volunteering to care for elderly people at the end of life in England is to expand it may require considerable attention to the model including training for volunteers and protections for patients and volunteers as well as public education and promotion. Currently, in England, there is a clear preference for non-medical care to be delivered by close family or social care professionals, with volunteer community care regarded only as a back-up option.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate: (1) to what extent family carers of people supported by specialised palliative care services felt they had been provided with information, support and aftercare and (2) how this varied by type of palliative care service, length of enrolment and characteristics of deceased.
METHODS: A cross-sectional postal survey was conducted using a structured questionnaire with nine items on information, support and aftercare provided by specialised palliative care services to family carers. Flemish family carers of people who had made use of specialised palliative care services at home or in hospital were contacted.
RESULTS: Of all primary family carers (response rate of 53.5% resulting in n=1504), 77.7% indicated they were asked frequently by professionals how they were feeling. Around 75% indicated they had been informed about specific end-of-life topics and around 90% felt sufficiently supported before and immediately after the death. Family carers of people who had died in a palliative care unit, compared with other types of specialised palliative care services, indicated having received more information, support and aftercare.
CONCLUSIONS: Family carers evaluate the professional assistance provided more positively when death occurred in a palliative care unit. Policy changes might be needed to reach the same level of care across all specialised palliative care services.
While working as a women's health nurse practitioner (NP) in the obstetric and gynecologic setting for 10 years, I found life circumstances steering my family and I to relocate. An opportunity arose for me to change gears and enter the world of women's health oncology. After seven months in my new role as a gynecologic oncology NP, I found myself sitting in a family meeting. The meeting involved myself, representing my clinical colleagues, along with team members from palliative care and social work. The patient was in her 80s with a diagnosis of recurrent endometrial cancer. Her health history included multiple previous surgeries and chemotherapy, and, unfortunately, she was no longer a safe candidate for treatment. She had comorbidities and chronic sequalae from past treatments.
Background: Care teams are increasingly expected to attend to the needs of patient's personal caregivers (e.g., family members). Improving communication among oncologists, patients with advanced cancer, and their personal caregivers might enhance caregivers' experiences of end-of-life (EoL) cancer care and bereavement outcomes.
Objective: To explore the effects of the Values and Options in Cancer Care intervention on caregivers' experiences of EoL care and bereavement outcomes.
Design: We developed a brief behavioral intervention to improve communication among oncologists, patients with advanced cancer, and their personal caregivers. The intervention was designed to help patients/caregivers ask questions, express concerns, and help oncologists respond effectively. We randomly assigned oncologists (and their patients/caregivers) to the intervention or usual care.
Setting/Subjects: Medical oncologists in NY and CA; patients/personal caregivers with advanced cancer.
Measurements: Two months after the patient's death, caregivers completed three instruments assessing their experiences of EoL care. Seven months after the patient's death, caregivers completed the Prolonged Grief Disorder-13 (PG-13; primary prespecified outcome), the Purpose-in-Life scale, and scales assessing mental health function, depression, and anxiety.
Results: The intervention did not significantly improve caregivers' scores on the PG-13 (p = 0.21), mental health function, depression, or anxiety, but it did improve purpose-in-life scores (p = 0.018). Cohen's d (95% confidence interval) for all three experiences of EoL care outcomes were promising, ranging from 0.22 (-0.19 to 0.63) to 0.39 (-0.07 to 0.86) although none was statistically significant.
Conclusion: Preliminary findings show promise that scalable interventions in cancer care settings may improve caregiver experiences with cancer care and some bereavement outcomes.
BACKGROUND: People can live for many months without knowing why their body is failing prematurely before being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND); a terminal neurodegenerative disease which can be experienced as 'devastating' for the person and their family.
AIM: This study aimed to explore the meaning of supporting a loved one with MND to die.
METHODS: This study uses reflection and autobiographical story to connect with broader cultural, political and social meaning and understandings of dying.
FINDINGS: Four themes were identified relating to the end-of-life trajectory of MND. Loss of person (lived body experienced in silence); loss of relationships (lived relations are challenged); loss of home and loss of time (lived space and lived time take on new meaning); loss of future (dying-facing it alone).
CONCLUSION: Dying with MND is a complex phenomenon. When a person can no longer move and communicate, relationships between those involved in end-of-life care are challenging. A person with MND needs the support from those acting as power of attorney to make their end of life their own, and they themselves need support to find meaning in their suffering. This autoethnographic reflection provides vicarious experiences for nurses and other healthcare professionals working with people with MND and similar conditions.
CONTEXT: Family caregivers (FCGs) of hospice cancer patients face significant challenges related to pain management. Addressing many of these challenges requires effective communication between FCGs and hospice nurses, yet little empirical evidence exists on the nature of communication about pain management between hospice nurses and FCGs.
OBJECTIVES: We identified ways in which FCGs of hospice cancer patients communicated their pain management challenges to nurses during home visits and explored nurses' responses when pain management concerns were raised.
METHODS: Using secondary data from audio recordings of hospice nurses' home visits, a deductive content analysis was conducted. We coded caregivers' pain management challenges and immediate nurses' responses to these challenges.
RESULTS: From 63 hospice nurse visits, 101 statements describing caregivers' pain management challenges were identified. Thirty percent of these statements pertained to communication and teamwork issues. Twenty-seven percent concerned caregivers' medication skills and knowledge. In 52% of the cases, nurses responded to caregivers' pain management challenges with a validating statement. They provided information in 42% of the cases. Nurses did not address 14% of the statements made by caregivers reflecting pain management challenges.
CONCLUSION: To optimize hospice patients' comfort and reduce caregivers' anxiety and burden related to pain management, hospice nurses need to assess and address caregivers' pain management challenges during home visits. Communication and educational tools designed to reduce caregivers' barriers to pain management would likely improve clinical practice and both patient- and caregiver-related outcomes.
The convergence of medical treatment that can extend life with written medical orders that make it possible to refuse such treatment brings the differential dynamics of contemporary end-of-life decision making into sharp focus. Communication between families and clinicians can be confusing, uncertain, and pressured when death is imminent. These situations create distress that ultimately influences the end-of-life experience for people who are dying and those who care for them. This article presents the analysis of the decisional dynamics that emerge from the intersection of the patient-family-provider awareness that death is near with the presence or absence of documentation of expressed wishes for end-of-life care. A heuristic analysis was conducted with data from three studies about urgent decision making at the end of life. Original study data included 395 surveys, in-depth interviews with 91 prehospital (paramedics and emergency medical technicians), and content analysis of 100 Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment forms that led to the development of an overarching conceptual model of decision making. Four decisional contexts emerged from the intersection of awareness of dying and documentation of wishes: 1) Aware Documented, 2) Aware Undocumented, 3) Unaware Documented, and 4) Unaware Undocumented. This generalizable model, which is agnostic of setting, can help clinicians more astutely recognize the clinical situation when death is imminent, assess patients and caregivers, and intervene to help focus conversation and direct decision making. The model can also inform research, education, and care for people in some of the most vulnerable moments of life.
Purpose: This study aimed to clarify the experiences of caregivers desiring to refuse life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents at the end of life.
Methods: A semi-structured interview was performed for four family caregivers who wanted to refuse life-prolonging treatment suggested by the physicians.
Results: In this study, four caregivers who refused life-prolonging treatment suggested by the physicians for their elderly parents completed semi-structured interviews. The obtained data were analyzed in relation to the theme "Experiences of caregivers who desire to refuse life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents at the end of life." As a result, 38 subcategories and 12 categories were extracted.
Conclusions: Participants in this study initially had a negative view of life-prolonging treatment. However, they agonized over the decision when they received conflicting advice from the physicians. The participants indicated that physicians' advice and attitudes complicated their decisions to reject life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents.
Background: Family caregivers in palliative care may be placed in a complicated emotional situation wherein they suffer the risk of grief reactions both pre- and postbereavement and may also experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate (1) associations between predeath grief and postdeath grief and (2) whether these are moderated by symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Design: This was a prospective correlational study. Linear regression analysis in three blocks was used to investigate associations between pre- and postdeath grief and moderation effects of anxiety and depression. Postdeath grief was used as the outcome variable and predeath grief was used as the explanatory variable in block I. The moderator variables, symptoms of anxiety, and symptoms of depression were added as covariates in block II. A multiplicative interaction term between predeath grief and anxiety/depression was added to the model in block III.
Setting/Subjects: Data were collected at 10 facilities specialized in palliative home care where health care professionals provided advanced care to patients with various diagnoses in their own homes.
Measurements: The anticipatory grief scale and the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief were used to measure pre- and postdeath grief, respectively. To measure symptoms of anxiety and depression, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale was used.
Results: A total of 128 family caregivers were included. Significant associations were found between predeath grief and postdeath grief and this association remained when controlled against symptoms of anxiety or depression. We found no moderation effect of anxiety or depression on the association between pre- and postdeath grief.
Conclusions: In conclusion, grief before and after an expected death can be regarded as parts of the same grief process. Hence, knowing the intensity of predeath grief could be a way to predict the levels of postdeath grief.
This aims of this longitudinal study were to identify the risk factors of and depressive mood in caregivers who received hospice care 6 months after their patients’ death, and the cutoff pint of the bereavement risk index, as well as, the prevalence of persistent complex bereavement disorder (PCBD). There were 30.28 and 4.59% of caregivers with depressive mood and PCBD, respectively. The risk factors included resistance to the reality of patients’ death, anger, self-blame and guilt, support networks, and coping. The cutoff points of total bereavement risk index and five-item short form were 10/11 and 9/10, respectively.