Background: Although the unit of care in palliative care is defined as the patient and their family, there are few rigorous studies on how to improve support for family and friends as they take on the role of caregiver for someone at the end of life.
Aim: Separate to patient evaluation and care, this pilot study aimed to define the feasibility and possible outcome measures to evaluate routine assessments and supports specifically for caregivers.
Design: In a quasi-experimental design, two communities were included: one received standard specialist palliative care support and one additionally was allocated to a community network facilitator who assessed caregivers' needs and helped mobilize the caregiver's own support network or initiated contact with other community supports in three planned visits. Data were collected at baseline, 4 and 8 weeks using three caregiver assessment tools. Within group comparisons were made using Wilcoxon signed rank test and between group using the Mann-Whitney U-test.
Participants: Sixty-six caregivers participated.
Results: At 8 weeks, participants in the intervention arm showed significant within-group improvement in caregiver fatigue, sufficient support from others, decreased resentment in the role, greater confidence in asking for assistance and were better able to find resources and support. No between-group changes were seen in this pilot study.
Conclusions: There were objective measures of improved support within the intervention group over time for caregivers through the active engagement of the community network facilitator. This pilot supports the case for an adequately powered study.