Background: Hospital-based support for bereaved parents is regarded as best practice. Little is known about parental perceptions or programmatic potential of online grief support.
Objectives: To learn from bereaved parent participants' experiences with an online support group to include perceptions of technology acceptance and group communication dynamics.
Design: Descriptive study reporting on an eight-week online bereavement support group offered during summer 2020.
Subjects and Setting: Inclusive of six bereaved parent participants in the Midwestern United States.
Measurements: Post-intervention survey consisting of 49-items with the Technology Acceptance Model and Other Communicated Perspective-Taking Ability instruments embedded.
Results: five bereaved mothers and one father (mean age 32 years) residing an average 126 miles from hospital participated in an online support group in a timeframe seven months to one year from the death of their child. Intensity of grief emotion (5/6 parents) and physical distance (4/6 parents) were notable barriers to in-person visits to the hospital, where bereavement support was to be offered. Parents uniformly reported feeling benefit from the program and satisfaction with the program. Respondents self-reported gaining improved communication (4/6 parents), coping (3/6 parents), peer support (3/6 parents), education (3/6 parents), and emotional expression (3/6 parents). Mean scores on the technology acceptance and communication experiences scales were 4.7/5. The virtual format was an acceptable modality with perceived supportive interpersonal communication dynamics.
Conclusion: Pediatric palliative care teams may consider the offering of online bereavement support groups. Further research is warranted on the impact and outcomes of online bereavement support groups for bereaved parents.
Le fait d’étudier des sujets tabous – en ce sens qu’ils font toujours l’objet de déni et d’effroi - comme le rapport à la mort, la représentation de la survivance de l’âme et les rites funéraires traditionnels ou numériques présente un intérêt à plusieurs points de vue. D’abord, sur le plan phénoménologique, il s’agit d’observer et de décrire les nouvelles pratiques communicationnelles dans l’espace socioculturel. Puis, sur le plan méthodologique, la démarche de recherche sollicite les apports de diverses disciplines qui vont de l’anthropologie à la sociologie de la mort en passant par les sciences de l’information et de la communication. Cet article analyse les « nouvelles liaisons » avec les morts à l’aune du numérique (Bourdeloie et al., 2016) à partir de données recueillies au Cameroun. En favorisant l’émancipation des cultures face à certaines contraintes, Internet oblige à repenser les modes de médiation avec l’au-delà. Les résultats de cette recherche montrent que même dans un contexte de faible pénétration d’Internet et de fortes croyances dans l’efficacité des rites traditionnels cette technologie bouleverse les usages et se révèle un dispositif d’accompagnement plutôt que de substitution.
Les mesures de confinement qui prévalent dans plus d'une centaine de pays touchés par la pandémie de COVID-19 ont bouleversé de manière tragique l'accompagnement des personnes en fin de vie et le processus de deuil de leurs proches aidants. Dans cet article, nous recensons les écrits sur le deuil et analysons les conséquences potentielles du contexte de pandémie sur l'expérience des individus endeuillés. Ensuite, nous explorons les modalités de soutien alternatives qui s'offrent aux personnes éprouvées par la perte d'un proche en raison de la pandémie. Puis, en nous appuyant sur la littérature répertoriée et sur le modèle des communautés compatissantes, nous présentons le projet "J'accompagne", dont la mission est de créer une communauté virtuelle de soutien autour des proches aidants et des endeuillés par la COVID-19.
Purpose: Social support is an important factor in reducing caregiver burden, however, accessing social support via traditional means is often challenging for family caregivers of hospice patients. Online support groups may offer an effective solution. The present study sought to understand dynamics of online social support among family and other informal (e.g., friends) caregivers of hospice cancer patients in an online social support group. The primary aim of the study was to identify types of online social support and support-seeking behaviors, with a secondary aim to understand informal hospice caregivers’ preferences for social support.
Method: Data used in this study were collected as part of a federally funded randomized clinical trial of an informal hospice cancer caregiver support intervention. Findings are based on directed and conventional content analysis of support group members' posts and comments—including text and images—and a sample of caregivers’ exit interviews.
Results: Analyses demonstrated that the majority of online support provided by group members was emotional support, followed by companionship support, appraisal support, and informational support. Instrumental support was rarely provided. Support was primarily elicited in an indirect manner through self-disclosure and patient updates, with few overt requests for support.
Conclusions: Findings suggest online social support groups can be a valuable resource for informal caregivers who are in need of emotional support and lack the ability to access face-to-face support groups. Clinical implications of this research to healthcare systems regarding the importance of incorporating nurses and other medical professionals as co-facilitators of online support groups are discussed.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential role of palliative care to support the delivery of compassionate, goal-concordant patient care. We created the web-based application, PalliCOVID (https://pallicovid.app/), in April 2020 to provide all clinicians with convenient access to palliative care resources and support. PalliCOVID features evidence-based clinical guidelines, educational content, and institutional protocols related to palliative care for COVID-19 patients. It is a publicly available resource accessible from any mobile device or desktop computer that provides clinicians with access to palliative care guidance across a variety of care settings, including the emergency department, hospital ward, intensive care unit, and primary care practice.
OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of this study was to evaluate usage patterns of PalliCOVID to understand user behavior in relation to this palliative care content platform during the period of the local peak of COVID-19 infection in Massachusetts.
DESIGN: We retrospectively analyzed de-identified usage data collected by Google Analytics from the first day of PalliCOVID's launch on April 7, 2020 until May 1, 2020, the time period that encompassed the local peak of the COVID-19 surge in Massachusetts.
MEASURE: ments: User access data was collected and summarized by Google Analytics software that had been integrated into the PalliCOVID web application.
RESULTS: 2,042 users accessed PalliCOVID and viewed 4,637 pages from April 7 to May 1, 2020. Users spent an average of 2 minutes and 6 seconds per session. 81% of users were first-time visitors, while the remaining 19% were return visitors. The majority of users accessed PalliCOVID from the United States (87%), with a large proportion of users coming from Boston and the surrounding cities (32% of overall users).
CONCLUSIONS: PalliCOVID is one example of a scalable digital health solution that can bring palliative care resources to frontline clinicians. Analysis of PalliCOVID usage patterns has the potential to inform the improvement of the platform to better meet the needs of its user base and guide future dissemination strategies. The quantitative data presented here, although informative about user behavior, should be supplemented with future qualitative research to further define the impact of this tool and extend our ability to deliver clinical care that is compassionate, rational, and well-aligned with patients' values and goals.
The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to high numbers of critically ill and dying patients in need of expert management of dyspnea, delirium, and serious illness communication. The rapid spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome-Coronavirus-2 creates surges of infected patients requiring hospitalization and puts palliative care programs at risk of being overwhelmed by patients, families, and clinicians seeking help. In response to this unprecedented need for palliative care, our program sought to create a collection of palliative care resources for nonpalliative care clinicians. A workgroup of interdisciplinary palliative care clinicians developed the Palliative Care Toolkit, consisting of a detailed chapter in a COVID-19 online resource, a mobile and desktop Web application, one-page guides, pocket cards, and communication skills training videos. The suite of resources provides expert and evidence-based guidance on symptom management including dyspnea, pain, and delirium, as well as on serious illness communication, including conversations about goals of care, code status, and end of life. We also created a nurse resource hotline staffed by palliative care nurse practitioners and virtual office hours staffed by a palliative care attending physician. Since its development, the Toolkit has helped us disseminate best practices to nonpalliative care clinicians delivering primary palliative care, allowing our team to focus on the highest-need consults and increasing acceptance of palliative care across hospital settings.
BACKGROUND: Failure to deliver care near the end of life that reflects the needs, values and preferences of patients with advanced cancer remains a major shortcoming of our cancer care delivery system.
METHODS: A mixed-methods comparative effectiveness trial of in-person advance care planning (ACP) discussions versus web-based ACP is currently underway at oncology practices in Western Pennsylvania. Patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers are invited to enroll. Participants are randomized to either (1) in-person ACP discussions via face-to-face visits with a nurse facilitator following the Respecting Choices® Conversation Guide or (2) web-based ACP using the PREPARE for your care™ web-based ACP tool. The trial compares the effect of these two interventions on patient and family caregiver outcomes (engagement in ACP, primary outcome; ACP discussions; advance directive (AD) completion; quality of end-of-life (EOL) care; EOL goal attainment; caregiver psychological symptoms; healthcare utilization at EOL) and assesses implementation costs. Factors influencing ACP effectiveness are assessed via in-depth interviews with patients, caregivers and clinicians.
DISCUSSION: This trial will provide new and much-needed empirical evidence about two patient-facing ACP approaches that successfully overcome limitations of traditional written advance directives but entail very different investments of time and resources. It is innovative in using mixed methods to evaluate not only the comparative effectiveness of these approaches, but also the contexts and mechanisms influencing effectiveness. Data from this study will inform clinicians, payers and health systems seeking to adopt and scale the most effective and efficient ACP strategy in real-world oncology settings.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning is the process of discussing health care treatment preferences based on patients' personal values, and it often involves the completion of advance directives. In the first months of 2020, a novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), began circulating widely in the American state of Colorado, leading to widespread diagnosis of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), hospitalizations, and deaths. In this context, the importance of technology-based, non-face-to-face methods to conduct advance care planning via patient portals has increased.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine the rates of use of a web-based advance care planning tool through a health system-based electronic patient portal both before and in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
METHODS: In 2017, we implemented web-based tools through the patient portal of UCHealth's electronic health record (EHR) for patients to learn about advance care planning and complete an electronically signed medical durable power of attorney (MDPOA) to legally appoint a medical decision maker. Patients accessing the portal can complete and submit a legally valid MDPOA, which becomes part of their medical record. We collected data on the patients' date of MDPOA completion, use of advance care planning messaging, age, sex, and geographic location during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic (December 29, 2019, to May 30, 2020).
RESULTS: Over a 5-month period that includes the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado, total monthly use of the advance care planning portal tool increased from 418 users in January to 1037 users in April and then decreased slightly to 815 users in May. The number of MDPOA forms submitted per week increased 2.4-fold after the stay-at-home order was issued in Colorado on March 26, 2020 (P<.001). The mean age of the advance care planning portal users was 47.7 years (SD 16.1), and 2206/3292 (67.0%) were female. Women were more likely than men to complete an MDPOA, particularly in younger age groups (P<.001). The primary use of the advance care planning portal tools was the completion of an MDPOA (3138/3292, 95.3%), compared to sending an electronic message (148/3292, 4.5%). Over 50% of patients who completed an MDPOA did not have a prior agent in the EHR.
CONCLUSIONS: Use of a web-based patient portal to complete an MDPOA increased substantially during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado. There was an increase in advance care planning that corresponded with state government shelter-in-place orders as well as public health reports of increased numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Patient portals are an important tool for providing advance care planning resources and documenting medical decision makers during the pandemic to ensure that medical treatment aligns with patient goals and values.
Fewer than one-third of US residents have completed an advance directive (AD) to guide care when seriously ill. Clinician-focused efforts to increase AD completion, such as Medicare payments for advance care planning (ACP), have been ineffective. In contrast, patient-facing interventions that enable independent completion of ADs show early promise. Self-service platforms also reveal changes in demand for ADs and preferences for future care. We sought to quantify changes in patient completion of ADs and expressed preferences during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by monitoring users of a web-based AD platform from January 2019 to April 2020.
BACKGROUND: Digital tools to document care preferences in serious illnesses are increasingly common, but their impact is unknown. We developed a web-based advance directive (AD) featuring (1) modular content eliciting detailed care preferences, (2) the ability to electronically transmit ADs to the electronic health record (EHR), and (3) use of nudges to promote document transmission and sharing.
OBJECTIVE: To compare a web-based, EHR-transmissible AD to a paper AD.
METHODS: Patients with gastrointestinal and lung malignancies were randomized to the web or paper AD. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients with newly documented advance care plans in the EHR at 8 weeks. Secondary outcomes assessed through an e-mail survey included the change in satisfaction with end-of-life plans, AD acceptability, and self-reported sharing with a surrogate.
RESULTS: Ninety-one participants were enrolled: 46 randomly allocated to the web AD and 45 to paper. Thirteen patients assigned to web AD (28%) had new documentation versus 7 (16%) assigned to paper (P = .14). Adjusted for demographic factors and primary diagnosis, the odds ratio of new documentation with web AD was 3.7 (95% CI: 0.8-17.0, P = .10). Satisfaction with advance care planning and AD acceptability were high in both groups and not significantly different. Among patients completing web ADs, 79% reported sharing plans with their caregivers, compared with 65% of those completing paper ADs (P = .40).
CONCLUSION: Web-based ADs hold promise for promoting documentation and sharing of preferences, but larger studies are needed to quantify effects on these intermediate end points and on patient-centered outcomes.
Objective: To describe the landscape of digital resources available for grief and bereavement, and to explore cultural variations through the analysis of patterns in three languages with a multinational repartition (English, French and Spanish).
Methods: For each language, websites were collected through a systematized approach and classified according to their category (governmental, health, educational, social media, conventional media, spiritual), their country of origin, and the type of support they offered (practical support, services, peer support, informational support, resources).
Results: A total of 2587 websites (English: 1003; French 678; Spanish: 906) were analyzed. Cultural variations were observed both for the websites’ categories and the types of support. Half of the websites presented at least one type of support, informational support being the most prevalent, followed by practical support. English websites presented significantly more support than Spanish websites, with French websites in between.
Practice implications: By using an extensive survey, our results allow for a general mapping of online websites that is comparable across languages, but also unveil digital dynamics unknown to date. These results further the multicultural understanding of digital support for grief and bereavement, propose an innovative and operational typology for online support and raise awareness of the current support landscape.
Background: As the death rate numbers in the United States related to COVID-19 are in the tens of thousands, clinicians are increasingly tasked with having serious illness conversations. However, in the setting of infection control policies, visitor restrictions, social distancing, and a lack of personal protective equipment, many of these important conversations are occurring by virtual visits.
Objective: From our experience with a multisite study exploring the effectiveness of virtual palliative care, we have identified key elements of webside manner that are helpful when conducting serious illness conversations by virtual visit.
Results: The key elements and components of webside manner skills are proper set up, acquainting the participant, maintaining conversation rhythm, responding to emotion, and closing the visit. Other considerations that may require conversion to phone visits include persistent technical difficulties, lack of prerequisite technology to conduct virtual visits, patients who are too ill to participate, or who find virtual visits too technically challenging.
Conclusions: Similar to bedside manner, possessing nuanced verbal and nonverbal webside manner skills is essential to conducting serious illness conversations during virtual visits.
The loss of a family member or friend can have profound psychological and physical implications, particularly for individuals without bereavement support services. Online support groups can be an effective means of extending services beyond the traditional modes of delivery. This is especially true for populations that include isolated individuals and those with limited support networks, limited transportation, challenging time commitments, or reside in communities with limited services available. The literature over the last 10 years was reviewed to discern the potential opportunities and challenges of providing online bereavement support group services. Discussed are challenges for recruitment of participants, availability of technology resources, addressing privacy and confidentiality issues, participants’ knowledge of technical equipment, legal considerations, ethical considerations, accessibility, and other best practices. Diverse populations such as adolescents, older adults, and rural communities must be uniquely considered when using online support groups.
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.
PURPOSE: Online programs may help to engage patients in advance care planning in outpatient settings. We sought to implement an online advance care planning program, PREPARE (Prepare for Your Care; http://www.prepareforyourcare.org), at home and evaluate the changes in advance care planning engagement among patients attending outpatient clinics.
METHODS: We undertook a prospective before-and-after study in 15 primary care clinics and 2 outpatient cancer centers in Canada. Patients were aged 50 years or older (primary care) or 18 years or older (cancer care) and free of cognitive impairment. They used the PREPARE website over 6 weeks, with reminders sent at 2 or 4 weeks. We used the 55-item Advance Care Planning Engagement Survey, which measures behavior change processes (knowledge, contemplation, self-efficacy, readiness) on 5-point scales and actions relating to substitute decision makers, quality of life, flexibility for the decision maker, and asking doctors questions on an overall scale from 0 to 21; higher scores indicate greater engagement.
RESULTS: In total, 315 patients were screened and 172 enrolled, of whom 75% completed the study (mean age = 65.6 years, 51% female, 35% had cancer). The mean behavior change process score was 2.9 (SD 0.8) at baseline and 3.5 (SD 0.8) at follow-up (mean change = 0.6; 95% CI, 0.49-0.73); the mean action measure score was 4.0 (SD 4.9) at baseline and 5.2 (SD 5.4) at follow-up (mean change = 1.2; 95% CI, 0.54-1.77). The effect size was moderate (0.75) for the former and small (0.23) for the latter. Findings were similar in both primary care and cancer care populations.
CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of the online PREPARE program in primary care and cancer care clinics increased advance care planning engagement among patients.
This special issue entitled “Futures of Digital Death: Mobilities of Loss and Commemoration” explores the topic of digital death and how technologies are reconfigured by and reconfiguring social relationships with the deceased and dying loved ones as well as the larger ecosystem supporting such relationships. This Introduction article starts with an overview of the past research on digital death intended to provide a relevant context for the five papers included in this issue. Then, we reflect on how the current papers, or the present research, build on the past and can be used to address existing gaps and to inform future new research directions in order to move the field forward.
Research is needed to examine new and innovative web-based intervention delivery methods that are feasible, cost-effective, and acceptable to children and their families to increase access to palliative care services in the home and community. Our previous work included the development of a legacy intervention using face-to-face digital storytelling for children with cancer that showed feasibility and strong promise to improve child outcomes. However, face-to-face intervention delivery techniques limited our recruitment, thus decreasing sample size and potential access to broader populations. Here we present the systematic steps of the development of a web-based legacy intervention for children (7-17 years of age) with relapsed or refractory cancer and their parent caregivers. Counts and frequencies for parent (n = 81) reports on satisfaction surveys are presented and parent suggestions for future work. Results suggest the web-based legacy intervention is feasible and acceptable, with parent-perceived beneficial outcomes for the child, parent, and family. Results provide a foundation for web-based intervention development in palliative care and the implementation of a theoretically grounded intervention to reduce suffering of seriously ill children and their family members, thereby advancing the science of symptom management in vulnerable palliative care populations.
Background: Adults with metastatic cancer frequently report anxiety and depression symptoms, which may impact health behaviors such as advance care planning (ACP).
Objective: The study leveraged acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), an evidence-based approach for reducing distress and improving health behaviors, and adapted it into a multimodal intervention (M-ACT) designed to address the psychosocial and ACP needs of anxious and depressed adults with metastatic cancer. The study evaluated M-ACT's acceptability, feasibility, and efficacy potential.
Design: The study was designed as a single-arm intervention development and pilot trial.
Setting/Subjects: The trial enrolled 35 anxious or depressed adults with stage IV cancer in community oncology clinics, with a referred-to-enrolled rate of 69% and eligible-to-enrolled rate of 95%.
Measurements: M-ACT alternated four in-person group sessions with three self-paced online sessions. Acceptability and feasibility were assessed through enrollment, attendance, and satisfaction ratings. Outcomes and theorized intervention mechanisms were evaluated at baseline, midintervention, postintervention, and two-month follow-up.
Results: Participant feedback was used to refine the intervention. Of participants starting the intervention, 92% completed, reporting high satisfaction. One-quarter did not begin M-ACT due to health declines, moving, or death. Completers showed significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and fear of dying and increases in ACP and sense of life meaning. In this pilot, M-ACT showed no significant impact on pain interference. Increases in two of three mechanism measures predicted improvement on 80% of significant outcomes.
Conclusions: The M-ACT intervention is feasible, acceptable, and shows potential for efficacy in community oncology settings; a randomized trial is warranted.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Family caregivers of patients with cancer often spend a great deal of effort on physically and emotionally demanding work while taking care of patients. However, the majority of caregivers are not properly equipped for their role as caregivers, which may lead to increased distress in both caregivers and patients. Herein, we reviewed the recent literature (last 3 years) examining online interventions that seek to support caregiver resilience and decrease distress.
RECENT FINDINGS: Our search identified interventions involving three main themes: informational support, positive activities, and social support. These are mostly in the form of web-based tools and mobile apps targeting both usability and quality of life. Social network services are also considered in this review as a new environment for caregivers to connect with other individuals with lived experience in similar circumstances.
SUMMARY: Existing studies on online interventions to support caregivers is still at a formative development stage and pilot tests of feasibility, rather than a substantive body of randomized controlled trials to assess the impact in different user populations, or to determine specific factors that impact caregiver distress level or resilience. More research is needed to further assess the long-term effects of online interventions on caregiver stress and resilience. Also, the role of different types of social network services and new forms of interaction, such as conversational agents, has not yet been fully investigated in caregiver populations. Future research should strive to seek new modes of providing services that may present novel opportunities to enhance caregiver resilience and reduce distress.