Patient Family Members Report Anxiety, Limited Knowledge of Acute Care

OCTOBER 29, 2017
Kevin Kunzmann
The first ever study to gauge a family-centric perspective on patient transition of care reported that there is varied and possibly poorly-informed level of expectation for family members undergoing intensive care.

The study — presented at the 2017 Annual CHEST Meeting in Toronto, ON, CA — was conducted by a team of researchers from the Aventura Hospital Medical Center’s Internal Medicine Department, in Aventura, FL. It focused on admitted patients and participating family members at the long-term acute care (LTAC) facility at Kindred Hospital South Florida.

Family members of LTAC-admitted patients were asked to answer a 15-item questionnaire upon admission. In the questionnaire, participants recalled their experiences with previous instances of intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalization. The study ran from April 2016 to March 2017.

Of the 50 LTAC participants enrolled in the project, 44 returned completed questionnaires. Of those to complete it, 11 (25%) expected their family member to make a full recovery, while 32 (73%) expected their family member’s recovery to come with disabilities. Only 1 participant did not expect their family member to make any recovery.

Exactly half of the participants (22) reported they were unaware of the time it would take for their family members to be discharged. Another 16 participants (36.4%) expected discharge to come in either 1 to 2 weeks, or 3 to 4 weeks.

Thirty-one participants (70.4%) did not expect their family member to be transferred to LTAC, and another majority (66%) did not report a satisfactory level of knowledge as to what equipment or medical services their family member required.

Supplemental from suffering a limitation of knowledge about their family member’s condition, participants were found to have physiological distress throughout LTAC, according to the study. Half of the participants reported anxiety, one-quarter (11) reported depression, and 31.8% (14) reported insomnia. A lack of family support throughout ICU admission was also reported by 11 (25%) of participants.

Researchers noted that a correlation could be made between the family members’ limitation of knowledge and self-reported bouts of anxiety and depression. Even the diversity of reported perception could “precipitate families’ emotional distress and challenge effective communication,” they wrote.

“Establishing optimal channels of communication to overcome barriers and empower patients’ family could improve the quality of transitions of care in the intensive care setting,” researchers wrote.

Serving as a first-of-its-kind study, the survey results could help develop more research aimed at improving transition of care to LTAC, researchers noted.

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