Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of the provision of information in the form of a rehabilitation program following critical illness in reducing psychological distress in the patients' close family.
Design: Randomised controlled trial, blind at follow-up with final assessment at 6 months.
Setting: Two district general hospitals and one teaching hospital.
Patients and participants: The closest family member of 104 recovering intensive care unit (ICU) patients.
Interventions: Ward visits, ICU clinic appointments at 2 and 6 months. Relatives and patients received the rehabilitation program at 1 week after ICU discharge. The program comprised a 6-week self-help manual containing information about recovery from ICU, psychological information and practical advice.
Measurements and results: Psychological recovery of relatives was assessed by examining the rate of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related symptoms by 6 months after ICU. The proportion of relatives scoring in the range >19 on the Impact of Events Scale (cause for concern) was high in both groups at 49% at 6 months. No difference was shown in the rate of depression, anxiety, or PTSD-related symptoms between the study groups.
Conclusion: A high incidence of psychological distress was evident in relatives. Written information concerning recovery from ICU provided to the patient and their close family did not reduce this. High levels of psychological distress in patients were found to be correlated with high levels in relatives.