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The Melbourne Family Support Program: evidence-based strategies that prepare family caregivers for supporting palliative care patients
  1. Peter Hudson1,2 and
  2. Sanchia Aranda3,4
  1. 1Centre for Palliative Care, c/o St Vincent's Hospital & Collaborative Centre of The University of Melbourne, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2School of Nursing, Queens University, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Cancer Services and Information, Cancer Institute of NSW, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Hudson, Centre for Palliative Care, C/o St Vincent's Hospital, PO Box 2900, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia; phudson{at}


Background A key component of palliative care is support for family caregivers. Although some family caregivers identify positive aspects, the impact is typically burdensome; they are prone to physical and psychological morbidity, financial disadvantage and social isolation. Outcomes of systematic reviews have highlighted the importance of investment in family caregiver intervention research.

Purpose To provide an overview of the development, evaluation and outcomes arising from of a programme of research (The Melbourne Family Support Program (FSP)), which focused on reducing the psychosocial burden of family caregivers.

Methods Developmental work involved a systematic literature review; focus groups with family caregivers and health professionals; and identification of a conceptual framework. Following a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT), a programme of psychoeducational intervention studies was developed and tested; one via RCT, the others via prepost test.

Results Four psychoeducational interventions, incorporating one-to-one and group format delivery, conducted in both the home and inpatient hospital/hospice were evaluated. Statistically significant outcomes included improvements in family caregivers’ preparedness, competence, positive emotions, more favourable levels of psychological wellbeing and a reduction in unmet needs. Internationally endorsed guidelines for the psychosocial support of family caregivers were produced and several resources were constructed. Fifteen publications in international peer-reviewed journals have arisen from this programme.

Conclusions The interventions and resources from the Melbourne FSP provide several evidenced-based and clinically relevant approaches that focus on reducing the psychosocial burden of the caregiving role. In several instances, however, more rigorous methodological testing is advocated.

  • Family caregivers
  • psychological
  • support
  • palliative
  • interventions

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