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The objectives of this study were to develop and refine EMPOWER (Enhancing and Mobilizing the POtential for Wellness and Resilience), a brief manualized cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based intervention for surrogate decision-makers of critically ill patients and to evaluate its preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and promise in improving surrogates’ mental health and patient outcomes.
Part 1 involved obtaining qualitative stakeholder feedback from 5 bereaved surrogates and 10 critical care and mental health clinicians. Stakeholders were provided with the manual and prompted for feedback on its content, format, and language. Feedback was organized and incorporated into the manual, which was then re-circulated until consensus. In Part 2, surrogates of critically ill patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) reporting moderate anxiety or close attachment were enrolled in an open trial of EMPOWER. Surrogates completed six, 15–20 min modules, totaling 1.5–2 h. Surrogates were administered measures of peritraumatic distress, experiential avoidance, prolonged grief, distress tolerance, anxiety, and depression at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at 1-month and 3-month follow-up assessments.
Part 1 resulted in changes to the EMPOWER manual, including reducing jargon, improving navigability, making EMPOWER applicable for a range of illness scenarios, rearranging the modules, and adding further instructions and psychoeducation. Part 2 findings suggested that EMPOWER is feasible, with 100% of participants completing all modules. The acceptability of EMPOWER appeared strong, with high ratings of effectiveness and helpfulness (M = 8/10). Results showed immediate post-intervention improvements in anxiety (d = −0.41), peritraumatic distress (d = −0.24), and experiential avoidance (d = −0.23). At the 3-month follow-up assessments, surrogates exhibited improvements in prolonged grief symptoms (d = −0.94), depression (d = −0.23), anxiety (d = −0.29), and experiential avoidance (d = −0.30).
Significance of results
Preliminary data suggest that EMPOWER is feasible, acceptable, and associated with notable improvements in psychological symptoms among surrogates. Future research should examine EMPOWER with a larger sample in a randomized controlled trial.
Hispanics often have disparities at the end of life. They are more likely to die full code and less likely to have discussions regarding prognosis and do not resuscitate (DNR)/do not intubate (DNI), despite studies showing Hispanic values comfort over the extension of life. Barriers to patient-centered care include language,socioeconomic status and health literacy.
We evaluated the impact of palliative care (PC) consults on the change of code status and hospice referrals, comparing seriously ill Hispanic and non-Hispanic white patients.
A retrospective cohort study of all white and Hispanic patients referred to the PC service of a county hospital from 2006 to 2012. We evaluated ethnicity, language, code status at admission and after PC consult, and hospice discharge. Chi-squared tests were used to analyze characteristics among three groups: non-Hispanic white, English-speaking Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients.
Of 925 patients, 511 (55%) were non-Hispanic white, 208 (23%) were English-speaking Hispanic, and 206 (22%) were Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients. On admission, there was no statistically significant difference in code status among the three groups (57%, 64%, and 59% were full code, respectively, p = 0.5). After PC consults, Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients were more likely to change their code status to DNR/DNI when compared with non-Hispanic white and English-speaking Hispanic patients (44% vs. 32% vs. 28%, p = 0.05). Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients were more likely to be discharged to hospice when compared with English-speaking Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites (33%, 29%, and 23%, respectively, p = 0.04).
Significance of results
Spanish-speaking Hispanic patients were more likely to change from full code to DNR/DNI compared with non-Hispanic white and English-speaking Hispanic patients, despite similar code status preferences on admission. They were also more likely to be discharged to hospice. PC consults may play an important role in helping patients to align their care with their values and may prevent unwanted aggressive interventions at the end of life.
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