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We aimed to describe the overall quantitative and qualitative results of a “La Caixa” Foundation and World Health Organization Collaborating Center Program entitled “Comprehensive Care for Patients with Advanced Illnesses and their Families” after four years of experience.
Qualitative and quantitative methods were employed to assess the program. Quasiexperimental, prospective, multicenter, single-group, and pretest/posttest methods were utilized to assess the quantitative data. The effectiveness of psychosocial interventions was assessed at baseline (visit 1) and after four follow-up visits. The following dimensions were assessed: mood state, discomfort, anxiety, degree of adjustment or adaptation to disease, and suffering. We also assessed the four dimensions of the spiritual pain scale: faith or spiritual beliefs, valuable faith or spiritual beliefs, meaning in life, and peace of mind/forgiveness. Qualitative analyses were performed via surveys to evaluate stakeholder satisfaction.
We built 29 psychosocial support teams involving 133 professionals—mainly psychologists and social workers. During the study period, 8,964 patients and 11,810 family members attended. Significant improvements were observed in the psychosocial and spiritual dimensions assessed. Patients, family members, and stakeholders all showed high levels of satisfaction.
Significance of Results:
This model of psychosocial care could serve as an example for other countries that wish to improve psychosocial and spiritual support. Our results confirm that specific psychosocial interventions delivered by well-trained experts can help to ease suffering and discomfort in end-of-life and palliative care patients, particularly those with high levels of pain or emotional distress.
The psycho-social needs of patients with advanced chronic illness and their families include emotional, spiritual, and bereavement care. With a funding initiative by the La Caixa Foundation and design by the WHO Collaborating Center, we developed and implemented a program for the comprehensive care of terminally-ill individuals and their families, in Spain. The intent was to improve the psycho-social and spiritual dimensions of care, to generate experience and evidence, to explore models, and to act as catalyst in the Spanish National Strategy for Palliative Care.
We reviewed the process of design, implementation, and initial evaluation of the program at 18 months.
Thirty psycho-social teams’ (PST) acting as support teams projects were initiated. There were 120 full-time healthcare professionals appointed (58% clinical psychologists). These professionals received training through a comprehensive postgraduate course, and all used the same documentation. Some results were collated 18 months post-implementation. The total number of patients attended to was 10,954, and the number of relatives was 17,715. The preliminary clinical outcomes show a significant improvement in well-being, and a decrease in anxiety and insomnia, although there was a smaller impact on alleviating depression. Healthcare professionals collated results on satisfaction with palliative care (PC) services.
Significance of results:
Based on these preliminary results, we suggest that the PST can be a model of organization that is effective and efficient in improving the psycho-social and spiritual aspects of care of terminally ill patients. Further follow-up and evaluation with validated tools are the main goals for the immediate future.
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