Distance education methods are useful for delivering education to palliative caregivers: A single-arm trial of an education package (PalliativE Caregivers Education Package)

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Abstract

Background:

Face-to-face/group education for palliative caregivers is successful, but relies on caregivers travelling, being absent from the patient, and rigid timings. This presents inequities for those in rural locations.

Aim:

To design and test an innovative distance-learning educational package (PrECEPt: PalliativE Caregivers Education Package).

Design:

Single-arm mixed-method feasibility proof-of-concept trial (ACTRN12616000601437). The primary outcome was carer self-efficacy, with secondary outcomes focused on caregiver preparedness and carer tasks/needs. Analysis focused on three outcome measures (taken at baseline and 6 weeks) and feasibility/acceptability qualitative data.

Setting and participants:

A single specialist palliative care service. Eligible informal caregivers were those of patients registered with the outpatient or community service, where the patient had a prognosis of ≥12 weeks, supporting someone with nutrition/hydration and/or pain management needs, proficient in English and no major mental health diagnosis.

Results:

Two modules were developed and tested (nutrition/hydration and pain management) with 18 caregivers. The materials did not have a statistically significant impact on carer self-efficacy. However, statistically significant improvements were observed on the two subsidiary measures of (1) caregiving tasks, consequences and needs (p = 0.03, confidence interval: 0.72, 9.4) and (2) caregiver preparedness (p = 0.001, confidence interval: −1.22, −0.46). The study determined that distance learning is acceptable and feasible for both caregivers and healthcare professionals.

Conclusion:

Distance education improves caregiver preparedness and is a feasible and acceptable approach. A two-arm trial would determine whether the materials benefitted caregivers and patients compared to a control group not receiving the materials. Additional modules could be fruitfully developed and offered.

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