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Enhancing Connections-Palliative Care: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Feasibility Study of a Cancer Parenting Program

Journal title
Journal of palliative medicine
Publication year
Lewis, F. M.; Loggers, E. T.; Phillips, F.; Palacios, R.; Tercyak, K. P.; Griffith, K. A.; Shands, M. E.; Zahlis, E. H.; Alzawad, Z.; Almulla, H. A.

Background: In 2018, >75,000 children were newly affected by the diagnosis of advanced cancer in a parent. Unfortunately, few programs exist to help parents and their children manage the impact of advanced disease together as a family. The Enhancing Connections-Palliative Care (EC-PC) parenting program was developed in response to this gap. Objective: (1) Assess the feasibility of the EC-PC parenting program (recruitment, enrollment, and retention); (2) test the short-term impact of the program on changes in parent and child outcomes; and (3) explore the relationship between parents' physical and psychological symptoms with program outcomes. Design: Quasi-experimental two-group design employing both within- and between-subjects analyses to examine change over time and change relative to historical controls. Parents participated in five telephone-delivered and fully manualized behavioral intervention sessions at two-week intervals, delivered by trained nurses. Behavioral assessments were obtained at baseline and at three months on parents' depressed mood, anxiety, parenting skills, parenting self-efficacy, and symptom distress as well as children's behavioral-emotional adjustment (internalizing, externalizing, and anxiety/depression). Subjects: Parents diagnosed with advanced or metastatic cancer and receiving noncurative treatment were eligible for the trial provided they had one or more children aged 5-17 living at home, were able to read, write, and speak English, and were not enrolled in a hospice program. Results: Of those enrolled, 62% completed all intervention sessions and post-intervention assessments. Within-group analyses showed significant improvements in parents' self-efficacy in helping their children manage pressures from the parent's cancer; parents' skills to elicit children's cancer-related concerns; and parents' skills to help their children cope with the cancer. Between-group analyses revealed comparable improvements with historical controls on parents' anxiety, depressed mood, self-efficacy, parenting skills, and children's behavioral-emotional adjustment. Conclusion: The EC-PC parenting program shows promise in significantly improving parents' skills and confidence in supporting their child about the cancer. Further testing of the program is warranted.

Research abstracts