Background: There are calls to explore psychological interventions to reduce distress in patients with motor neuron disease (MND) and their family caregivers. Dignity therapy is a short-term psychotherapy intervention shown to alleviate distress for people with life-limiting illnesses.
Objectives: To assess the acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness of dignity therapy to reduce distress in people with MND and their family caregivers.
Methods: The study used a repeated-measures design pre-and post-intervention. Acceptability and feasibility were assessed using participants' ratings of the helpfulness of the intervention across several domains and time and resources required. Effectiveness measures for patients included: dignity-related distress, hopefulness, and spiritual well-being; and those for family caregivers included burden, hopefulness, anxiety, and depression.
Results: Twenty-seven patients and 18 family caregivers completed the intervention. Dignity therapy was well accepted, including those patients who required assisted communication devices. The feasibility may be limited in small or not well-resourced services. There were no significant differences in all outcome measures for both groups. However, the high satisfaction and endorsement of dignity therapy by patients suggests it has influenced various important aspects of end-of-life experience. Family caregivers overwhelmingly agreed that the dignity therapy document is and will continue to be a source of comfort to them and they would recommend dignity therapy to others in the same situation.
Conclusions: This is the first dignity therapy study to focus on MND and on home-based caregiving. Results established the importance of narrative and generativity for patients with MND and may open the door for other neurodegenerative conditions.