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Patients approaching the end of life not only face challenges to physical well-being but also threats to emotional and spiritual integrity. Yet, identifying appropriate, effective, and brief interventions to address those concerns has proven elusive. We developed an intervention based on life review and emotional disclosure literatures and conducted a pilot study to determine feasibility and acceptability. This article presents qualitative intervention responses.
We conducted a three-armed randomized control trial to evaluate the effects of preparation and life completion discussion on health outcomes in patients with advanced serious illness. Hospice-eligible subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) intervention (life completion discussion intervention), (2) attention control (relaxation meditation), and control (no intervention). Subjects in the intervention arm met with a facilitator three times. Session 1 focused on life story, Session 2 on forgiveness, and Session 3, on heritage and legacy.
Eighteen subjects participated in the pilot intervention interviews. Subjects from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds completed the intervention with equal facility. Results from Session 1 demonstrate narrative responses participants gave as they reconnected with previous life roles, values, and accomplishments. The second session illustrated reflections of choices one might have made differently and exploration of forgiveness offered and sought. Content from the first and second sessions laid the foundation for discussing Session 3's lessons learned and heritage and legacy. Responses are summarized to assist clinicians in anticipating life review content that may improve overall quality of life at the end of life.
Significance of results:
Discussions of life completion may improve important health outcomes for patients at the end of life. This intervention may provide a brief, standardized, and transportable means for improving the quality of life of patients with advanced serious illness.
There is a paucity of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to evaluate models of palliative care. Although interventions vary, all have faced a variety of methodological challenges including adequate recruitment, missing data, and contamination of the control group. We describe the ENABLE II intervention, methods, and sample baseline characteristics to increase intervention and methodological transparency, and to describe our solutions to selected methodological issues.
Half of the participants recruited from our rural U.S. comprehensive cancer center and affiliated clinics were randomly assigned to a phone-based, nurse-led educational, care coordination palliative care intervention model. Intervention services were provided to half of the participants weekly for the first month and then monthly until death, including bereavement follow-up call to the caregiver. The other half of the participants were assigned to care as usual. Symptoms, quality of life, mood, and functional status were assessed every 3 months until death.
Baseline data of 279 participants were similar to normative samples. Solutions to methodological challenges of recruitment, missing data, and “usual care” control group contamination are described.
Significance of results:
It is feasible to overcome many of the methodological challenges to conducting a rigorous palliative care RCT.
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