MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ann H Cottingham MA MAR
Indiana University School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Advance care planning provides patients with cancer an opportunity to reflect on future care and treatment options with their physician and family and identify and document their preferences in preparation for a time when they may be unable to speak for themselves. Advance care planning increases both quality of life and satisfaction with care, however the majority of patients with cancer have not participated in these important conversations. Common emotional responses to cancer, such as feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness, pose one barrier to planning as they can keep patients from thinking about or discussing sensitive topics related to their illness.
We conducted a pilot study to explore whether training in mindfulness, the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present, could enhance the ability of patients and families to consider and discuss emotionally challenging topics — such as end-of-life preparations — and support timely advance care planning. Twelve patient-family caregiver pairs participated in a pilot study of Mindfully Optimizing Delivery of End-of-Life (MODEL) Care, which combined mindfulness meditation, mindful communication practices, and information about advance care planning. MODEL Care focused on developing emotional and communication capacities to enable patients and their family caregivers to respond to the experience of living with advanced cancer and to talk about the disease and future care preferences with greater ease.
The study found that MODEL Care successfully supported patients and their family caregivers in thinking about and then talking about the care they would want to receive if they become unable to speak for themselves, enhancing their ability to respond to emotional challenges, and decreasing barriers to end-of-life planning.
MODEL Care improved patient and caregiver ability to cope, lowered emotional reactivity, and enhanced ability to respond to issues that incited emotion. It also strengthened the patient-caregiver relationship and enhanced communication with each other. MODEL Care also improved both patient and family caregiver communication with the physicians caring for the patient. Patients noted that the practices enabled them to cope more effectively with the symptoms of their disease, including pain. Caregivers reported changes in their loved one’s ability to cope with their disease following the mindfulness sessions. Continue reading