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1.  Feasibility, Acceptability, and Potential Effectiveness of Dignity Therapy for People with Motor Neurone Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96888.
Background
Motor neurone disease (MND) practice guidelines suggest developing interventions that will promote hope, meaning, and dignity to alleviate psychological distress, but very little research has been done. This study begins to address this need by exploring the use of dignity therapy with people with MND. Dignity therapy is a brief psychotherapy that promotes hope, meaning and dignity, and enhances the end of life for people with advanced cancer. The aims of this study are to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and potential effectiveness of dignity therapy for people with MND.
Methods/design
This cross-sectional feasibility study used a one-group pre-test post-test design with 29 people diagnosed with MND. Study participants completed the following self-report questionnaires: Herth Hope Index, FACIT-sp, Patient Dignity Inventory, ALS Assessment Questionnaire, ALS Cognitive Behavioural Screen, and a demographic and health history questionnaire. Acceptability was measured with a 25-item feedback questionnaire. Feasibility was assessed by examining the length of time taken to complete dignity therapy and how symptoms common in MND affected the intervention. Generalised linear mixed models and reliable change scores were used to analyse the data.
Results
There were no significant pre-test post-test changes for hopefulness, spirituality or dignity on the group level, but there were changes in hopefulness on the individual level. The results of the feedback questionnaire indicates dignity therapy is highly acceptable to people with MND, who report benefits similar to those in the international randomised controlled trial on dignity therapy, a population who primarily had end-stage cancer. Benefits include better family relationships, improved sense of self and greater acceptance. Dignity therapy with people with MND is feasible if the therapist can overcome time and communication difficulties.
Conclusions
Dignity therapy for people with MND is feasible and acceptable. Further research is warranted to explore its ability to diminish distress.
Trial Registration
www.anzctr.org.au ACTRN12611000410954
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096888
PMCID: PMC4016138  PMID: 24816742
2.  General Practitioners’ experiences of bereavement care and their educational support needs: a qualitative study 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:59.
Background
General Practitioners (GPs) are well-positioned to provide grief support to patients. Most GPs view the provision of bereavement care as an important aspect of their role and the GP is the health professional that many people turn to when they need support. We aimed to explore GPs’ understandings of bereavement care and their education and professional development needs in relation to bereavement care.
Methods
An in-depth qualitative design was adopted using a social constructionist approach as our aims were exploratory and applied. Nineteen GPs (12 women and 7 men) living in Western Australia were interviewed; 14 were based in metropolitan Perth and 5 in rural areas. GPs were invited, via a letter, to participate in a semi-structured interview. The interviews occurred within each GP’s workplace or, for the rural GPs, via telephone, and all interviews were digitally audio-recorded and transcribed.
Results
Analysis was based upon constant comparison and began as soon as possible after each interview. The data revealed four tensions or opposing views concerning bereavement and bereavement care. These were (1) whether grief is a standardised versus an individual process, (2) the role of the GP in intervening versus promoting resilience, (3) the GP as a broker of services versus a service provider, and (4) the need for formal education and professional development versus ‘on-the-job’ experiential learning.
Conclusions
GPs have a critical role in exploring distress, including grief. However, changes need to be made to ensure GPs have up-to-date knowledge of contemporary theories and approaches. GPs urgently need education both at the undergraduate and postgraduate degree levels, and in continuing professional development. Otherwise GPs will rely on out-dated theories and constructions of grief, which may be detrimental to patient care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-59
PMCID: PMC3986890  PMID: 24670040
Bereavement; Grief; General practitioners; Qualitative; Education; Professional development
3.  Feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of dignity therapy for family carers of people with motor neurone disease 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:12.
Background
Dignity therapy is a brief psychotherapy that has been shown to enhance the end of life experience. Dignity therapy often involves family carers to support patients weakened by illness and family carers are also the usual recipients of the legacy documents created. No research to date has examined the impact of dignity therapy on family carers at the time of the intervention. This study examined the effects of dignity therapy on family carers of people with motor neurone disease (MND).
Methods
This is a cross-sectional study utilizing a one-group pre-test post-test design with 18 family carers of people diagnosed with MND. Outcomes measured caregiver burden, anxiety, depression, and hopefulness. Acceptability was measured with a questionnaire. Feasibility was assessed by examining family carers’ involvement in the therapy sessions, time taken to conduct sessions, and any special accommodations or deviations from the dignity therapy protocol.
Results
There were no significant pre-test post-test changes on the group level, but there were decreases in anxiety and depression on the individual level. Baseline measures indicate that 50% of family carers had moderate to severe scores for anxiety prior to dignity therapy. MND family carers saw benefits to the person with MND and to themselves after bereavement, but acceptability of dignity therapy at the time of the intervention was mixed with some family carers indicating it was helpful, some indicating it was harmful, and many expressing ambivalence. Dignity therapy involving MND family carers is feasible and the involvement of family carers has minimal impact on the therapy.
Conclusion
Dignity therapy is not likely to alleviate caregiver burden in MND family carers, but it may have the ability to decrease or moderate anxiety and depression in distressed MND family carers. Dignity therapy is feasible and generally acceptable to MND family carers. Dignity therapists may provide a better experience for family carers when they are aware of acceptance levels and the quality of partner relationships.
Trial registration
ANZCTR Trial Number: ACTRN12611000410954
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-13-12
PMCID: PMC3995116  PMID: 24646211
Motor neurone disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Palliative care; Family carers; Dignity therapy; Psychotherapy; Family therapy
4.  Is dignity therapy feasible to enhance the end of life experience for people with motor neurone disease and their family carers? 
BMC Palliative Care  2012;11:18.
Background
Development of interventions that address psychosocial and existential distress in people with motor neurone disease (MND) or that alleviate caregiver burden in MND family carers have often been suggested in the research literature. Dignity therapy, which was developed to reduce psychosocial and existential distress at the end of life, has been shown to benefit people dying of cancer and their families. These results may not be transferable to people with MND. The objectives of this study are to assess the feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of dignity therapy to enhance the end of life experience for people with motor neurone disease and their family carers.
Methods/design
This is a cross-sectional study utilizing a single treatment group and a pre/post test design. The study population will comprise fifty people diagnosed with MND and their nominated family carers. Primarily quantitative outcomes will be gathered through measures assessed at baseline and at approximately one week after the intervention. Outcomes for participants include hopefulness, spirituality and dignity. Outcomes for family carers include perceived caregiver burden, hopefulness and anxiety/depression. Feedback and satisfaction with the intervention will be gathered through a questionnaire.
Discussion
This detailed research will explore if dignity therapy has the potential to enhance the end of life experience for people with MND and their family carers, and fill a gap for professionals who are called on to address the spiritual, existential and psychosocial needs of their MND patients and families.
Trial registration
ACTRN Trial Number: ACTRN12611000410954
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-11-18
PMCID: PMC3517308  PMID: 22995100
Motor neurone disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Palliative care; Existential distress; Family carers; Dignity therapy
5.  Does smoking status affect the likelihood of consulting a doctor about respiratory symptoms? A pilot survey in Western Australia 
BMC Family Practice  2009;10:16.
Background
Smokers attribute respiratory symptoms, even when severe, to everyday causes and not as indicative of ill-health warranting medical attention. The aim of this pilot study was to conduct a structured vignette survey of people attending general practice to determine when they would advise a person with respiratory symptoms to consult a medical practitioner. Particular reference was made to smoking status and lung cancer.
Methods
Participants were recruited from two general practices in Western Australia. Respondents were invited to complete self-administered questionnaires containing nine vignettes chosen at random from a pool of sixty four vignettes, based on six clinical variables. Twenty eight vignettes described cases with at least 5% risk of cancer. For analysis these were dubbed 'cancer vignettes'. Respondents were asked if they would advise a significant other to consult a doctor with their respiratory symptoms. Logistic regression and non-parametric tests were used to analyse the data.
Results
Three hundred questionnaires were distributed and one hundred and forty completed responses were collected over six weeks. The majority (70.3%) of respondents were female aged forty and older. A history of six weeks' of symptoms, weight loss, cough and breathlessness independently increased the odds of recommending a consultation with a medical practitioner by a factor of 11.8, 2.11, 1.40 and 4.77 respectively. A history of smoking independently increased the odds of the person being thought 'likely' or 'very likely' to have cancer by a factor of 2.46. However only 32% of cancer vignettes with a history of cigarette smoking were recognised as presentations of possible cancer.
Conclusion
Even though a history of cigarette smoking was more likely to lead to the suggestion that a symptomatic person may have cancer we did not confirm that smokers would be more likely to be advised to consult a doctor, even when presenting with common symptoms of lung cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-16
PMCID: PMC2652431  PMID: 19220917

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