This study will demonstrate whether an end-of-life preparation and completion intervention reduces anxiety, depression, pain and other symptoms and improves functional status, spiritual well-being, and quality of life. If effective, the intervention offers a brief, inexpensive, and transportable non-physician treatment method for improving the experience of individuals in the latter stages of life-limiting illness. Efforts to improve end-of-care often focus on pain and symptom control, but few, if any, effective interventions exist addressing preparation arid completion. We designed an end-of-life preparation and completion intervention, based on the human development literature identifying life completion as a developmental task and the robust evidence in health communication and clinical psychology that addresses the value of expressing emotions and stress on health outcomes.
Our specific aims are 1) evaluate the impact of an intervention that promotes discussions of end-of-life preparation and completion on health outcomes in dying persons, including pain and symptoms, physical-function, emotional function (anxiety and depression), spiritual well-being, and quality of life at the end of life and 2) evaluate the content of the such discussions, examining task variation associated with gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, quality of communication with family, spirituality, and stage of illness to improve understanding of the need for tailored intervention content based on demographics or location in the trajectory of illness. We propose a randomized control trial to evaluate the intervention. 140 patients with advanced cancer, CHF, or COPD will be randomly assigned into one of two intervention groups and complete a brief battery of pre-test measures. Subjects in the first group (""""""""treatment"""""""") will meet with a facilitator three times for a period of forty-five minutes each. In the first session, subjects will be asked to discuss issues related to life review. A week later, participants will be asked to speak in more depth about issues such as regret, forgiveness and things left undone. In the final session, a week hence, subjects will focus on heritage and legacy. The subjects in the second group (""""""""attention control"""""""") will meet with a facilitator three times for a period of forty-five minutes each and be asked to listen to a non-guided relaxation CD. One week and two weeks later, participants in all groups will receive post-test measures administered by a blinded interviewer.
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