Research shows that patients have an interest and want to discuss end-of-life planning and concerns. However, these conversations often do not take place due to patient or physician discomfort with the topic, said Savannah Geske, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Saint Luke’s Health System, in Kansas City, Mo. However, as of 2019, 72% of hospitals with 50 or more beds nationwide have palliative care programs.
Clinical Oncology News’ recent article entitled “End-of-Life Planning Gives Cancer Patients Sense of Completion, Control” reports that to address these discrepancies, Dr. Geske and clinical psychologist Kadie Harry, PhD, started a virtual end-of-life planning group with patients at St. Luke’s. During four weekly, 90-minute small-group sessions, the group reviews components of the workbook “The Last Chapter: Documenting your Pre- and Post-Death Decisions,” by Therese McKechnie. Each session focuses on a different section of the book.
Participants had statistically significant improvements in relationships with providers, feelings of life completion and decreases in death-related anxiety, Dr. Geske said. Most participants said the program simplified end-of-life planning and motivated them to discuss end-of-life decisions with loved ones.
“They discussed a recurring pattern of first, a strong feeling of not wanting to do something, then engaging with this feeling through the workbook or with group members, and finally a sense of empowerment and accomplishment,” Dr. Geske said. Participants also reported that peer support was helpful in coming to terms with their mortality, she said, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study’s findings are consistent with prior work in the field. In one nurse-led advance care planning session, patient and family member response was “overwhelmingly positive, with participants citing opportunities for group discussion and inclusion of family caregivers as important.”
Reference: Clinical Oncology News (Feb. 28, 2022) “End-of-Life Planning Gives Cancer Patients Sense of Completion, Control”