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We aimed to explore multiple perspectives regarding barriers to and facilitators of advance care planning (ACP) among African Americans to identify similarities or differences that might have clinical implications.
Qualitative study with health disparities experts (n = 5), community members (n = 9), and seriously ill African American patients and caregivers (n = 11). Using template analysis, interviews were coded to identify intrapersonal, interpersonal, and systems-level themes in accordance with a social ecological framework.
Participants identified seven primary factors that influence ACP for African Americans: religion and spirituality; trust and mistrust; family relationships and experiences; patient-clinician relationships; prognostic communication, care preferences, and preparation and control. These influences echo those described in the existing literature; however, our data highlight consistent differences by group in the degree to which these factors positively or negatively affect ACP. Expert participants reinforced common themes from the literature, for example, that African Americans were not interested in prognostic information because of mistrust and religion. Seriously ill patients were more likely to express trust in their clinicians and to desire prognostic communication; they and community members expressed a desire to prepare for and control the end of life. Religious belief did not appear to negate these desires.
Significance of results
The literature on ACP in African Americans may not accurately reflect the experience of seriously ill African Americans. What are commonly understood as barriers to ACP may in fact not be. We propose reframing stereotypical barriers to ACP, such as religion and spirituality, or family, as cultural assets that should be engaged to enhance ACP. Although further research can inform best practices for engaging African American patients in ACP, findings suggest that respectful, rapport-building communication may facilitate ACP. Clinicians are encouraged to engage in early ACP using respectful and rapport building communication practices, including open-ended questions.
When caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness, a caregiver's own physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering can be profound. While many interventions focus on physical and emotional well-being, few caregiver interventions address existential and spiritual needs and the meaning that caregivers ascribe to their role. To evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the process and content of Caregiver Outlook, we employed a manualized chaplain-led intervention to improve well-being by exploring role-related meaning among caregivers of patients with a life-limiting illness.
We conducted a single-arm pre–post pilot evaluation among caregivers of patients with advanced cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Caregivers completed three chaplain-led intervention sessions focusing on (1) a relationship review, (2) forgiveness, and (3) legacy. Outcomes administered at baseline and at 1 and 2 weeks after the intervention included quality of life, anxiety, depression, spiritual well-being, religious coping, caregiver burden, and grief.
The sample (N = 31) included a range of socioeconomic status groups, and the average age was approximately 60 years. A third of them worked full-time. Some 74% of our participants cared for a spouse or partner, and the other quarter of the sample cared for a parent (13%), child (10%), or other close family member (3%). At baseline, participants did not demonstrate clinical threshold levels of anxiety, depression, or other indicators of distress. Outcomes were stable over time. The qualitative results showed the ways in which Caregiver Outlook was assistive: stepping back from day-to-day tasks, the opportunity to process emotions, reflecting on support received, provoking thoughts and emotions between sessions, discussing role changes, stimulating communication with others, and the anonymity of a phone conversation. Both religious and nonreligious participants were pleased with administration of the chaplain intervention.
Significance of results:
The acceptability and feasibility of Caregiver Outlook were demonstrated among caregivers of patients with an advanced illness. Our pilot findings suggest minor modifications to study participant screening, interventionist guidance, and the study measures.