Hudson, P.L., Aranda, S., & Hayman-White, K. (2005). A psycho-educational intervention for family caregivers of patients receiving palliative care: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 30, 329–341.doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2005.04.006
To examine the effects of a psycho-educational intervention on the reported levels of preparedness, mastery, self-efficacy, competence, rewards, and anxiety among caregivers of patients receiving home-based palliative care for advanced cancer in comparison to caregivers receiving standard care
The intervention was psycho-educational in nature and was delivered by intervention nurses through two intervention home visits and one intervention follow-up phone call. In addition to the interaction with the nurse, caregivers were given a caregiving guidebook and an audiotape. The guidebook provided easy-to-access information about caring for a dying person, and the audiotape contained a structured relaxation exercise and featured reflections from other carers who also reviewed self-care strategies. (Note. The guidebook is available from the Palliative Care Victoria website or via e-mail.) The control group received the usual care (24-hour access to phone advice, emergency visits, and prescheduled home visits from nurses, physicians, and other health professionals).
Caregiver profile: The majority of caregivers (74.8%) were Australian-born, and 74.3% self-identified as Christians. Thirty-one (31.7%) of participants had professional or university education, and 34.6% did not complete high school education. The caregivers were giving care to their patient for a mean length of time of 16.3 weeks (SD = 5). The majority (87.6%) of participants expressed that they were involved in the care because they wanted to, not because they had to, and 43.4% had at least three friends or family members assisting them in providing care. About half of participants had to stop or reduce their work in order to be able to provide care for their patient. Caregivers of patients who were identified as Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group level 4 (completely disabled and confined to bed at all times) were excluded from participating when identified at screening.
Patient profile: Patients cared for by caregivers had advanced cancer and were admitted to home-based palliative services within a week before recruitment. The mean age of patients was 69.14 years (SD = 13.46), with a range of 31–92 years. About half (48.1%) were confined to bed almost 50% of the time, and 11.3% were completely disabled and confined to bed all the time. The majority of patients (66.7%) were spouses or partners of caregivers; the rest were either parents of caregivers (16%) or their offspring (7.6%).
The study design was a controlled trial with random assignment of participants to intervention versus control group. Data were collected at multiple times using self-reported questionnaires.
The intervention and control group were compared to identify any significant differences between them, but none were detected.
Only 12 participants in the intervention group and 15 in the control group filled out the data questionnaires at all three time points. However, the number of participants who completed the data at times 1 and 2 was 75 (35 in the control and 40 in the intervention group), and at times 1 and 3 was 45 (25 in the control and 20 in the intervention group).
Findings of time 1 to time 2 (n = 75):
Findings of time 1 to time 3 (n = 45):
Although the study showed that the intervention did not show much effect on most of the assessed caregiver outcomes, it did reveal an unexpected finding. That is, participants in the intervention group showed increased perceived sense of reward over time compared to participants in the control group. The findings suggest that the increased sense of perceived reward may play a role as a coping resource and could potentially have a buffering effect from caregiving burden.
Attrition of participants in caregiving studies seems to be a significant factor to consider and one that is hard to control.
The sense of reward or maintaining positive emotions by caregivers of patients in palliative care could be used as a resource to help caregivers cope with caregiving burden.
Although the study did not show much impact of the intervention, it supports the notion that giving information to caregivers is important, especially when given at selected times that are based on the caregivers’ needs during the caregiving experience. The “proper” timing for interventions, as well as the “proper” intervention with caregivers, are areas open for research. The need remains to identify the nature of interventions that are needed by caregivers. These needs seem to be variable depending on the healthcare system in which they are delivered, the specific characteristics of the caregivers, and the settings in which potential interventions are delivered.