Reducing the psychological distress of family caregivers of home based palliative care patients: longer term effects from a randomised controlled trial

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Abstract

Background:

Palliative care incorporates comprehensive support of family caregivers because many of them experience burden and distress. However, evidence-based support initiatives are few.

Purpose:

We evaluated a one-to-one psychoeducational intervention aimed at mitigating the distress of caregivers of patients with advanced cancer receiving home-based palliative care. We hypothesised that caregivers would report decreased distress as assessed by the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ).

Method:

A randomised controlled trial comparing two versions of the delivery of the intervention (one face-to-face home visit plus telephone calls versus two visits) plus standard care to a control group (standard care only) across four sites in Australia.

Results:

Recruitment to the one visit condition was 57, the two visit condition 93, and the control 148. We previously reported non-significant changes in distress between times 1 (baseline) and 2 (1-week post-intervention) but significant gains in competence and preparedness. We report here changes in distress between times 1 and 3 (8-week post-death). There was significantly less worsening in distress between times 1 and 3 in the one visit intervention group than in the control group; however, no significant difference was found between the two visit intervention and the control group.

Conclusions:

These results are consistent with the aim of the intervention, and they support existing evidence demonstrating that relatively short psychoeducational interventions can help family caregivers who are supporting a dying relative. The sustained benefit during the bereavement period may also have positive resource implications, which should be the subject of future inquiry. © 2014 The Authors.Psycho-Oncologypublished by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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