Caregivers Can Benefit From Early Intervention

Early rather than late palliative care support provided benefits to family caregivers as well as patients.

A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June showed that early rather than late palliative care support provided benefits to family caregivers as well as patients.

The early introduction of palliative care for both patients and caregivers coping with advanced cancer has been shown to improve caregivers’ quality of life and lessen depression and burden.

ENABLE (Educate, Nurture, Advise, Before Life Ends) provides phone-based palliative care interventions for patients and caregivers from an advanced practice nurse who coaches them in problem solving, advance care planning, communication and symptom management, as well as timely referrals to palliative care and hospice resources.

“Family caregivers spend an average of eight hours a day assisting cancer patients with their care, so their days are very busy,” says the study’s lead author J. Nicholas Dionne-Odom, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing. “Delivering support over the phone is convenient and flexible, eliminating the need to travel for face-to-face appointments.”

Caregivers also perceived themselves to be less burdened by performing caregiving tasks, according to Dionne-Odom. The research, which involved gathering measures of quality of life, depression and burden from caregivers from 2010 to 2013, suggests that concurrent oncology palliative care should be initiated as early as possible to maximize the benefit to caregivers.

The study included 207 patients with recurrent or metastatic cancer and 122 family caregivers.

“Palliative care helps caregivers by teaching them how to effectively partner with patients in managing serious illness and by emphasizing that the best care they can give to their loved ones can only happen if they also prioritize taking care of themselves and their own health,” says Dionne-Odom.

[Tough Talk: Preparing for End of Life]