Purpose: Families provide crucial support, yet their own needs often go unrecognised and, as a consequence, remain unmet. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a newly developed supportive intervention for family members of patients with lung cancer.
Materials and methods: A consecutive convenience sample of 25 family members of people with lung cancer received an individualised supportive intervention from a support nurse over a period of 12 weeks. This involved in-depth assessment followed up with a tailored plan of ongoing support to address informational, emotional, social and practical needs. A concurrent mixed method design explored perceptions and outcomes of those receiving the intervention and assess its appropriateness, acceptability and feasibility. Data were collected through a semi structured telephone interview with family members, and support nurses maintained a contact log. A questionnaire addressed emotional well-being [general health questionnaire (GHQ-12)], quality of life [quality of life family version (Family QoL)] and needs for care [family inventory of needs (FIN)]—at baseline and week 12.
Results: Family members perceived they had derived benefit from the intervention. Certain elements clearly emerged as important for participants, including being listened to by someone who could facilitate emotional expression, being provided with individually tailored information and receiving practical help and advice. Outcomes mapped to five main areas: information needs, communication between family members, emotional well-being, being supported and facilitating family member’s role. There was a trend for more needs to be met and quality of life and emotional well-being to improve at week 12.
Conclusion: This study has demonstrated that a supportive intervention for family members of patients with lung cancer can be delivered to good effect by experienced cancer nurses. The active components of the intervention have been distinguished and provide the basis for development of a larger sufficiently powered trial.