The provision of informal care in terminal illness: An analysis of carers? needs using a discrete choice experiment
There is an increasing expectation that families will provide care at home for those with chronic, acute and terminal illness. There is a range of services available to support the home care of these patients. Carers of those in the terminal phase of illness face different demands and challenges than those caring for the chronically ill, disabled or aging; the patient?s health is deteriorating, often rapidly, and death is imminent. Yet the needs and requirements of this group of carers has been far less studied than those caring for people with chronic and continuing conditions. We argue that considering the reciprocal nature of relationships is important in understanding the provision of informal care. Carers? feelings for which tasks and responsibilities are most difficult are not the same as their preferences for additional support services. Carers preferences are influenced by their relationship with the patient. This study investigates carers? preferences for services to support their caregiving role. Carer preferences were investigated using a discrete choice experiment, in which 168 carers were asked first to choose between two packages of care and then between the chosen package and their current support. Data were analysed using mixed logit. The DCE results showed that the support most wanted was palliative care nursing, general nursing, and telephone advice available 24 hours. Carers providing high levels of care wanted respite care provided at home and help with the patient?s personal care. Where the care-giving need was relatively low, carers wanted help with household tasks, transport and a case co-ordinator. Overall, carers appeared to be satisfied with the support they received from palliative care services, but this varied with the personal circumstances of the carer. This study provides useful insights for those who plan and deliver palliative care in the community. It supports the view that effective support for carers must recognise the differing needs of individual carers. While our results do not provide any insight into how the pre-existing relationship between carer and recipient may affect preferences for care, it points to the need to explore further differences in preferences across respondents both in discrete choice work in general, and in designing services to support rather than replace informal carers.
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