Professor Sue Latter
Professor Sue Latter, the lead researcher from the University of Southampton, said: “Despite the heavy burden placed on carers to help manage pain medication at home, there is a real lack of reliable research on effective methods of supporting carers with medicines management.
“Medication management requires knowledge and practical skill, and involves carers in monitoring and interpreting symptoms, as well as selecting, administering and evaluating the effectiveness of medicines. Often, carers will not have training for their role and will have preconceived views about pain and analgesics, particularly opioids.”
Professor Jane Hopkinson from Cardiff University, and co-author, said: “Cancer Carers’ Medicines Management made clinical sense to nurses, who recognised the challenges faced by carers managing analgesics at the end of life and saw potential benefits in improving education and support.”
Most studies conclude that healthcare professionals need to provide carers with more information, training and continuing support.
Dee Sissons, Director of Nursing at Marie Curie, said: “The responsibility of taking on a caring role for someone who is terminally ill can be immensely rewarding, but also daunting. Family carers play a critical role in supporting people with a terminal illness so they can be cared for and die at home when this is their wish.
This new study shows that nurses and carers can work together to better manage pain medication at home and enable carers to respond more readily to their loved ones request for pain relief with greater confidence.”
The nurses who participated in the study also provided feedback on how to use the intervention more widely in palliative care nursing practice. Their suggestions included: involving patients with other terminal illnesses, including other ‘end of life care’ medication and introducing it earlier in the course of a patient’s illness, which could increase benefits to carers.
The study results have informed further NIHR funded research on nurses supporting self-management of medicines at the end of life.
The research published in Palliative Medicine was funded by the Dimbleby Marie Curie Research Fund.