Caregiver Activation and Home Hospice Nurse Communication in Advanced Cancer Care

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Abstract

Background:

Activated patients have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to manage their care, resulting in positive outcomes such as lower hospital readmission and fewer adverse consequences due to poor communication with providers. Despite extensive evidence on patient activation, little is known about activation in the home hospice setting, when family caregivers assume more responsibility in care management.

Objective:

We examined caregiver and nurse communication behaviors associated with caregiver activation during home hospice visits of patients with advanced cancer using a prospective observational design.

Methods:

We adapted Street’s Activation Verbal Coding tool to caregiver communication and used qualitative thematic analysis to develop codes for nurse communications that preceded and followed each activation statement in 60 audio-recorded home hospice visits.

Results:

Caregiver communication that reflected activation included demonstrating knowledge regarding the patient/care, describing care strategies, expressing opinions regarding care, requesting explanations of care, expressing concern about the patient, and redirecting the conversation toward the patient. Nurses responded by providing education, reassessing the patient/care environment, validating communications, clarifying care issues, updating/revising care, and making recommendations for future care. Nurses prompted caregiver activation through focused care-specific questions, open-ended questions/statements, and personal questions.

Conclusions:

Few studies have investigated nurse/caregiver communication in home hospice, and, to our knowledge, no other studies focused on caregiver activation. The current study provides a foundation to develop a framework of caregiver activation through enhanced communication with nurses.

Implications for Practice:

Activated caregivers may facilitate patient-centered care through communication with nurses in home hospice, thus resulting in enhanced outcomes for patients with advanced cancer.

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