From "surviving to thriving": Mood Lifters - a wellness program for parents of medically complex children

Palliat Support Care. 2023 Jun 15:1-6. doi: 10.1017/S1478951523000718. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Parents of medically complex children juggle unique demands associated with caring for chronically ill children, many of which negatively impact their mental wellbeing. Despite this, parents of medically complex children often forgo mental health support due to concerns with costs, time, stigma, and accessibility. There is limited research on evidence-based interventions addressing such barriers for these caregivers. We piloted an adapted version of Mood Lifters, a peer-led wellness program, to equip parents of medically complex children with evidence-based strategies to manage their mental health while also reducing barriers to support. We hypothesized parents would find Mood Lifters to be feasible and acceptable. Further, parents would experience improvements in mental wellbeing upon program completion.

Methods: We conducted a single-arm prospective pilot study to assess Mood Lifters for parents of medically complex children. Participants included 51 parents in the U.S. recruited from a local pediatric hospital providing care for their children. Caregiver mental wellbeing was assessed through validated questionnaires pre-intervention (T1) and post-intervention (T2). Repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted to evaluate change between T1 and T2.

Results: Analyses from T1 and T2 (n = 18) revealed improvements in parents' depression (F(1,17) = 7.691, p = 0.013) and anxiety (F(1,17) = 6.431, p = 0.021) after program completion. Improvements in perceived stress and positive and negative emotion were significant at p < 0.0083.

Significance of results: Parents of medically complex children experienced improved mental health upon participating in Mood Lifters. Results offer preliminary support for the feasibility and acceptability of Mood Lifters as an evidence-based care option that may also alleviate common barriers to care.

Keywords: Caregivers; Depression; Parental mental health; Parents of medically complex children; Stress.