Coping easier for patients with advance care plans

Advanced care planning--that is, having a living will and a designated health care proxy--helps patients with blood cancers better cope, according to research presented today at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting in New Orleans.Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center compared the psychological well-being of patients who had advance care planning with those who did not, and although both groups were found to have similar levels of social support, depression and anxiety, and quality of life, they each had different patterns for coping. Patients with ACP were constructive "copers." They were problem-solvers who took advice, planned, and sought moral support or discussed their feelings with others. Patients without ACP, on the other hand, were emotional copers, utilizing techniques like self-blame, denial, and behavioral or mental disengagement.Considering that previous studies found only half of blood cancer patients undergoing a high-risk procedure, such as a stem cell transplant, have advance care planning, this new study can help cancer care providers design interventions that engage more patients in ACP. What may appeal to patients, regardless of coping style, is to highlight the positives and practical importance of ACP while de-emphasizing the emotional aspects, researchers said.Check out the American Cancer Society's advance directives webpage for detailed information on living wills and other important health care-related documents.