, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 585-597,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 25 Oct 2007

Specialized palliative care services are associated with improved short- and long-term caregiver outcomes

Abstract

Goals of work

The goal of this study was to evaluate, at a population level, the association between specialized palliative care services (SPCS) and short- and long-term caregiver outcomes.

Patients and methods

The Health Omnibus Survey, a face-to-face survey conducted annually in South Australia since 1991, collects health-related data from a rigorously derived, representative sample of 4,400 households. This study included piloted questions in the 2001, 2002, and 2003 Health Omnibus Survey on the impact of SPCS. Sample size was 9,088 individuals. “Unmet needs,” a short-term outcome relevant to the caregiving period during a life-limiting illness, were tallied. “Moving on,” a long-term caregiver-defined outcome reflecting the caregiver’s adaptation and return to a new equilibrium after the death, was assessed with and without SPCS.

Results

Thirty-seven percent (3,341) indicated that someone close to them had died of a terminal illness in the preceding 5 years, of whom 949 (29%) reported that they provided care. SPCS were involved in caring for 60% of deceased patients. Day-to-day caregivers indicated fewer unmet needs when SPCS were involved (p = 0.0028). More caregivers were able to “move on” with their lives when SPCS were involved than when SPCS were not involved (86 vs 77%, p = 0.0016); this effect was greatest in the first 2 years after the loved one’s death.

Conclusion

At a population level, SPCS were associated with meaningful improvements in short-term (“unmet needs”) and long-term (”moving on”) caregiver-defined outcomes.