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Dignity therapy (DT) is designed to address psychological and existential challenges that terminally ill individuals face. DT guides patients in developing a written legacy project in which they record and share important memories and messages with those they will leave behind. DT has been demonstrated to ease existential concerns for adults with advanced-stage cancer; however, lack of institutional resources limits wide implementation of DT in clinical practice. This study explores qualitative outcomes of an abbreviated, less resource-intensive version of DT among participants with advanced-stage cancer and their legacy project recipients.
Qualitative methods were used to analyze postintervention interviews with 11 participants and their legacy recipients as well as the created legacy projects. Direct content analysis was used to assess feedback from the interviews about benefits, barriers, and recommendations regarding abbreviated DT. The legacy projects were coded for expression of core values.
Findings suggest that abbreviated DT effectively promotes (1) self-expression, (2) connection with loved ones, (3) sense of purpose, and (4) continuity of self. Participants observed that leading the development of their legacy projects promoted independent reflection, autonomy, and opportunities for family interaction when reviewing and discussing the projects. Consistent with traditional DT, participants expressed “family” as the most common core value in their legacy projects. Expression of “autonomy” was also a notable finding.
Significance of results
Abbreviated DT reduces resource barriers to conducting traditional DT while promoting similar benefits for participants and recipients, making it a promising adaptation warranting further research. The importance that patients place on family and autonomy should be honored as much as possible by those caring for adults with advanced-stage cancer.
Advance care planning (ACP) increases quality of life and satisfaction with care for those with cancer and their families, yet these important conversations often do not occur. Barriers include patients’ and families’ emotional responses to cancer, such as anxiety and sadness, which can lead to avoidance of discussing illness-related topics such as ACP. Interventions that address psychological barriers to ACP are needed. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of a mindfulness intervention designed to cultivate patient and caregiver emotional and relational capacity to respond to the challenges of cancer with greater ease, potentially decreasing psychological barriers to ACP and enhancing ACP engagement.
The Mindfully Optimizing Delivery of End-of-Life (MODEL) Care intervention provided 12 hours of experiential training to two cohorts of six to seven adults with advanced-stage cancer and their family caregivers (n = 13 dyads). Training included mindfulness practices, mindful communication skills development, and information about ACP. Patient and caregiver experiences of the MODEL Care program were assessed using semistructured interviews administered immediately postintervention and open-ended survey questions delivered immediately and at 4 weeks postintervention. Responses were analyzed using qualitative methods.
Four salient themes were identified. Patients and caregivers reported the intervention (1) enhanced adaptive coping practices, (2) lowered emotional reactivity, (3) strengthened relationships, and (4) improved communication, including communication about their disease.
Significance of results
The MODEL Care intervention enhanced patient and caregiver capacity to respond to the emotional challenges that often accompany advanced cancer and decreased patient and caregiver psychological barriers to ACP.
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