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The role of aromatherapy in supportive symptom management for pediatric patients receiving palliative care has been underexplored. This pilot study aimed to measure the impact of aromatherapy using validated child-reported nausea, pain, and mood scales 5 minutes and 60 minutes after aromatherapy exposure.
The 3 intervention arms included use of a symptom-specific aromatherapy sachet scent involving deep breathing. The parallel default control arm (for those children with medical exclusion criteria to aromatherapy) included use of a visual imagery picture envelope and deep breathing. Symptom burden was sequentially assessed at 5 and 60 minutes using the Baxter Retching Faces scale for nausea, the Wong-Baker FACES scale for pain, and the Children's Anxiety and Pain Scale (CAPS) for anxious mood. Ninety children or adolescents (mean age 9.4 years) at a free-standing children's hospital in the United States were included in each arm (total n = 180).
At 5 minutes, there was a mean improvement of 3/10 (standard deviation [SD] 2.21) on the nausea scale; 2.6/10 (SD 1.83) on the pain scale; and 1.6/5 (SD 0.93) on the mood scale for the aromatherapy cohort (p < 0.0001). Symptom burden remained improved at 60 minutes post-intervention (<0.0001). Visual imagery with deep breathing improved self-reports of symptoms but was not as consistently sustained at 60 minutes.
Significance of results
Aromatherapy represents an implementable supportive care intervention for pediatric patients receiving palliative care consults for symptom burden. The high number of children disqualified from the aromatherapy arm because of pulmonary or allergy indications warrants further attention to outcomes for additional breathing-based integrative modalities.
Understanding perceptions of family caregivers’ roles and responsibilities regarding their child with complex cardiac needs has potential to help care teams better support parents. Paternal experience has been under-explored in pediatric cardiac cohorts.
Ten fathers of children undergoing cardiac surgery completed quantitative surveys on their knowledge needs and preferred format of communication. In face-to-face recorded interviews, they responded to open-ended questions about the definition of being a good father to a child with a complex cardiac condition, perceived paternal responsibilities, personal growth as a parent to a child with a complex heart condition, support needs, and recommendations to medical staff for paternal inclusion. Semantic content analysis was utilised. The study reports strictly followed COnsolidated criteria for REporting Qualitative research guidelines.
The fathers reported high preference for knowledge about the child’s heart condition, communication about the treatment plan, and desire for inclusion in the care of their child. Paternal role was defined thematically as: providing a supportive presence, being there, offering bonded insight, serving as strong provider, and acting as an informed advocate. The fathers revealed that their responsibilities sometimes conflicted as they strove to serve as an emotional and economic stabiliser for their family, while also wanting to be foundationally present for their child perioperatively.
This study provides insight into paternal experience and strategies for paternal inclusion. This summary of the self-defined experience of the fathers of pediatric cardiac patients offers constructive and specific advice for medical teams.
The death of a child has been associated with adverse parental outcomes, including a heightened risk for psychological distress, poor physical health, loss of employment income, and diminished psychosocial well-being. Psychosocial standards of care for centers serving pediatric cancer patients recommend maintaining at least one meaningful contact between the healthcare team and bereaved parents to identify families at risk for negative psychosocial sequelae and to provide resources for bereavement support. This study assessed how this standard is being implemented in current healthcare and palliative care practices, as well as barriers to its implementation.
Experts in the field of pediatric palliative care and oncology created a survey that was posted with review and permission on four listservs. The survey inquired about pediatric palliative and bereavement program characteristics, as well as challenges and barriers to implementation of the published standards of care.
The majority of participants (N = 100) self-reported as palliative care physicians (51%), followed by oncologists (19%). Although 59% of staff reported that their center often or always deliver bereavement care after a child's death, approximately two-thirds reported having no policy for the oncology team to routinely assess bereavement needs. Inconsistent types of bereavement services and varying duration of care was common. Twenty-eight percent of participants indicated that their center has no systematic contact with bereaved families after the child's death. Among centers where contacts are made, the person who calls the bereaved parent is unknown to the family in 30% of cases. Few centers (5%) use a bereavement screening or assessment tool.
Significance of results
Lack of routine assessment of bereavement needs, inconsistent duration of bereavement care, and tremendous variability in bereavement services suggest more work is needed to promote standardized, policy-driven bereavement care. The data shed light on multiple areas and opportunities for improvement.
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