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Patients with incurable cancer and their informal caregivers have numerous psychological and psychosocial needs. Many of these patients wish to receive their care and die at home. Few home-based specialized palliative care (SPC) interventions systematically integrate psychological support. We present a psychological intervention for patient–caregiver dyads developed for an ongoing randomized controlled trial (RCT) of home-based SPC, known as Domus, as well as the results of an assessment of its acceptability and feasibility.
The Domus model of SPC for patients with incurable cancer and their caregivers offered systematic psychological assessment and dyadic intervention as part of interdisciplinary care. Through accelerated transition to SPC, the aim of the model was to enhance patients' chances of receiving care and dying at home. Integration of psychological support sought to facilitate this goal by alleviating distress in patients and caregivers. Psychologists provided needs-based sessions based on existential-phenomenological therapy. Feasibility and acceptability were investigated by examining enrollment, nonparticipation, and completion of psychological sessions.
Enrollment in the RCT and uptake of the psychological intervention indicated that it was feasible and acceptable to patients and caregivers. The strengths of the intervention included its focus on dyads, psychological distress, and existential concerns, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration and psychological interventions offered according to need. Its main limitation was a lack of an intervention for other family members.
Significance of Results:
Our results show that psychological intervention can be systematically integrated into SPC and that it appears feasible to provide dyadic needs-based sessions with an existential therapeutic approach. The Domus RCT will provide evidence of the efficacy of a novel model of multidisciplinary SPC.
The formation of a strong bond between patients and therapists can lead to successful treatment outcomes. Yet, little is known about the mechanisms that function to control this relationship. The objective of this case report was to examine the ruptures and repairs in the working alliance between a young therapist and an elderly caregiver, and to suggest ways in which to deal with age-related challenges to such an alliance.
In order to examine the ruptures and repairs in a working alliance, this case report reflects on the interdependent relationship among therapist variables, patient variables, and the therapeutic alliance. The clinical experience presented describes a newly educated psychologist's struggles to overcome the challenges in forming a strong working alliance with an elderly dying cancer patient's spouse. The spouse was enrolled in the DOMUS study (Clinicaltrials.gov: NTC01885637), an ongoing randomized controlled trial of a patient-and-caregiver intervention for facilitating the transition from an oncology ward to palliative at-home care, and then bereavement. As part of the DOMUS study, the patient and spouse received a psychological intervention based on existential-phenomenological therapy.
A therapist's therapeutic approach to breaking down age-related barriers to communication matters greatly. The existential-phenomenological method of epoché offers a way to effectively address ruptures and repairs in a working alliance, as it enhances the therapist's openness to learning. In addition, the insights of senior supervisors can promote a therapist's openness to learning.
Significance of results:
In conclusion, the method of epoché benefits the working alliance in several ways, as it enhances personal insight and provides methods for repairing an alliance. The reflections in this paper may be applied to clinical settings in oncology, gerontology, and palliative care, which are likely to be of great interest to young clinicians experiencing age-related challenges in their daily work.
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