Support and education for caregivers via a nurse-led intervention is shown to improve end-of-life care for patients with cancer, according to a study conducted by a team of nurses from the University of Southampton, Cardiff University, and University of Leeds. The study, published in Palliative Care, reports on a novel approach that focuses on helping the caregivers learn medication management, symptom recognition, and other aspects of caring for patients with cancer.

The researchers developed an approach called The Cancer Carers’ Medicines Management (CCMM) intervention. CCMM addresses a caregiver’s beliefs, knowledge, and skills, and promotes self-evaluation of competence. The nurses involved in the development of CCMM look to continue refining the intervention and hope it will be evaluated in a trial to determine its effectiveness in improving caregivers’ management of pain medicines and other end-of-life care for patients with cancer.

“Oncology nurses have a key role in preparing and supporting patients and their families to manage cancer pain at home. Helping people with cancer manage symptoms is important if they are to live as well as possible,” said Jane Hopkinson, a professor of nursing at Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, and a co-investigator in the study.

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CCMM was tested in a 2-arm, parallel group, randomized controlled feasibility trial conducted at 2 sites: one in South Wales and the other in southern England. The researchers believe this is the first study of its kind to be developed with input from caregivers. Additional input was solicited from oncology patients, palliative care nurses, pharmacists, and physicians.

The caregivers completed baseline questionnaires prior to receiving CCMM instruction at the nurse’s next home visit. The nurses addressed caregivers’ questions and reinforced the intervention instructions at subsequent routine home visits.