Promoting preparedness for family caregiving – a randomised controlled intervention in palliative care
Abstract: Background: Patients with incurable illness are increasingly being cared for in their homes with the help of palliative home care. However, in this system family caregivers also play an important role and often take a great responsibility for the patient’s care. Family caregivers often lack preparedness for the situation, which could have negative consequences on their health and wellbeing. Methods: The overall aim of this thesis was to develop and test a psycho-educational intervention for family caregivers in specialised palliative home care and to study processes and effects of the intervention. The psycho-educational intervention was developed based on the theoretical framework of Andershed and Ternestedt with focus on family caregivers’ need for education and practical and emotional support. The intervention was delivered by health professionals and tested as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) at 10 specialised palliative home care settings, including an intervention arm and a control arm with standard support. The thesis includes four studies of which two (I, II) had a qualitative design and focused on processes involved in or considered relevant for the intervention. Two studies (III, IV) had a quantitative approach and focused on the effects of the intervention. The overall aim of the intervention was to improve family caregivers’ feelings of preparedness for caregiving. In total, 194 family caregivers participated in the RCT with 96 family caregivers in the control arm and 98 in the intervention arm. Aim and results of studies: The aim of Study I was to study how family caregivers’ experienced their preparedness for caregiving in palliative care. The results showed that preparing for caregiving was viewed as an ongoing process by family caregivers and that it was related to the process of preparing for the patient’s death. The aim of Study II was to explore the experiences of delivering and participating in the intervention from the perspectives of health professionals and family caregivers. The intervention was generally perceived as a positive experience and both groups highlighted that it could be used a tool to support family caregivers to become better prepared. The aim of Study III was to investigate the effects of the intervention compared to standard support in short- term and long-term. The results showed that the intervention had significantly improved family caregivers’ feelings of preparedness for caregiving both in short-term and long-term. The aim of Study IV was to investigate the characteristics of family caregivers who did not benefit from the intervention. The results indicated that family caregivers who did not benefit were significantly less vulnerable at baseline than those who did. Hence, they might not have had the same need for the intervention to become better prepared. Conclusion: In conclusion of the four studies, the psycho-educational intervention could be valuable as a part of the health professional work to support family caregivers and increase their chances to become better prepared for caregiving. For the development of future interventions, it is important that family caregivers who are perceived as vulnerable are not excluded from participating, because they could be in most need of them.
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