Development and evaluation of the Dignity Talk question framework for palliative patients and their families: A mixed-methods study

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Abstract

Background:

Effective patient–family communication can reduce patients’ psychosocial distress and relieve family members’ current suffering and their subsequent grief. However, terminally ill patients and their family members often experience great difficulty in communicating their true feelings, concerns, and needs to each other.

Aim:

To develop a novel means of facilitating meaningful conversations for palliative patients and family members, coined Dignity Talk, explore anticipated benefits and challenges of using Dignity Talk, and solicit suggestions for protocol improvement.

Design:

A convergent parallel mixed-methods design. Dignity Talk, a self-administered question list, was designed to prompt end-of-life conversations, adapted from the Dignity Therapy question framework. Participants were surveyed to evaluate the Dignity Talk question framework. Data were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods.

Setting/participants:

A total of 20 palliative patients, 20 family members, and 34 healthcare providers were recruited from two inpatient palliative care units in Winnipeg, Canada.

Results:

Most Dignity Talk questions were endorsed by the majority of patients and families (>70%). Dignity Talk was revised to be convenient and flexible to use, broadly accessible, clearly stated, and sensitively worded. Participants felt Dignity Talk would be valuable in promoting conversations, enhancing family connections and relationships, enhancing patient sense of value and dignity, promoting effective interaction, and attending to unfinished business. Participants suggested that patients and family members be given latitude to respond only to questions that are meaningful to them and within their emotional capacity to broach.

Conclusion:

Dignity Talk may provide a gentle means of facilitating important end-of-life conversations.

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