An Early Palliative Care Telehealth Coaching Intervention to Enhance Advanced Cancer Family Caregivers' Decision Support Skills: The CASCADE Pilot Factorial Trial

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2022 Jan;63(1):11-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2021.07.023. Epub 2021 Jul 31.


Context: Patients with advanced cancer often involve family caregivers in health-related decision-making from diagnosis to end-of-life; however, few interventions have been developed to enhance caregiver decision support skills.

Objectives: Assess the feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of individual intervention components of CASCADE (CAre Supporters Coached to be Adept DEcision Partners), an early telehealth, palliative care coach-led decision support training intervention for caregivers.

Methods: Pilot factorial trial using the multiphase optimization strategy (October 2019-October 2020). Family caregivers and their care recipients with newly-diagnosed advanced cancer (n = 46 dyads) were randomized to1 of 8 experimental conditions that included a combination of one of the following three CASCADE components: 1) effective decision support psychoeducation; 2) decision support communication training; and 3) Ottawa Decision Guide training. Feasibility was assessed by completion of sessions and questionnaires (predefined as ≥80%). Acceptability was determined through postintervention interviews and participants' ratings of their likelihood to recommend. Measures of effective decision support and caregiver and patient distress were collected at Twelve and Twenty four weeks.

Results: Caregiver participants completed 78% of intervention sessions and 81% of questionnaires; patients completed 80% of questionnaires. Across conditions, average caregiver ratings for recommending the program to others was 9.9 on a scale from 1-Not at all likely to 10-Extremely likely. Individual CASCADE components were observed to have potential benefit for effective decision support and caregiver distress.

Conclusion: We successfully piloted a factorial trial design to examine components of a novel intervention to enhance the decision support skills of advanced cancer family caregivers. A fully-powered factorial trial is warranted.

Key message: We pilot tested components of CASCADE, an early palliative care decision support training intervention for family caregivers of patients with advanced cancer. CASCADE components were acceptable and the trial design feasible, providing promising future directions for palliative care intervention development and testing. Pilot results will inform a fully-powered trial.

Keywords: Palliative care; cancer; family caregiving; multiphase optimization strategy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Humans
  • Mentoring*
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Telemedicine*