Background: Palliative care services strive to support people to live and die well in their chosen environment, with optimal symptom control and a pattern of care supportive of laycarers. The likelihood of patients remaining at home often depends upon laycarers, who may be required to manage subcutaneous medications.
Aim and design: This study reports the development, trial and evaluation of a package that teaches laycarers to manage subcutaneous medications used for symptom control in home-based patients. The package was developed by palliative care stakeholders and comprises an educational session, delivered by nurses, and a range of demonstrative, audiovisual and written resources.
Settings/participants: The package was trialled across 24 sites and was evaluated by 76 laycarers (pre- and post-use) and 53 nurses (at study completion).
Results: Outcomes of primary interest were perceived global usefulness of the package and rated relevance of components. Laycarers and nurses rated the usefulness and relevance of the package highly - all means were above 5 on a 7-point scale. Also, laycarers were invited to comment on the package, and three focus groups for 26 nurses explored post hoc issues following package implementation.
Conclusions: In terms of the palliative patient's illness trajectory, consensus was that the time for package introduction depended upon each particular clinical situation and laycarer. Nursing opinion was divided concerning whether it is safe and appropriate for laycarers to manage subcutaneous injections. Nevertheless, this study demonstrates that the package supports laycarers to manage subcutaneous medications. This has important implications for families, services and health-care systems.
Keywords: Palliative care; breakthrough pain; homecare; laycarer education; subcutaneous injection; symptom management.