The child’s experience with a parent with advanced cancer is complex and difficult for both the child and the ill parent. Children of parents with advanced cancer have significantly elevated levels of distress and depression compared to the general population The level of distress is even greater during the terminal phase of the disease than after the parent dies. Despite the magnitude of impact, there are few services or programs to which parents can turn for help in assisting their child better cope and manage the effects of the parent’s cancer on the everyday life of the child.
The Wonders & Worries Palliative Care program (WW-PC) was developed to respond to this need. This feasibility study will use mixed methods within a single group, pre-posttest design with a 4 week follow up. Interventions will be delivered to all study participants (n=20), delivered jointly to parents (2 sessions), individually to the child (5 sessions), and one family session. Study participants will serve as their own controls. Goals of the WW-PC are to provide an age-appropriate understanding of the illness, facilitate expression of feelings, and identify individual coping skills to ease feelings related to parent’s advanced cancer, and enhance the family’s ability to communicate about the disease, treatment, and end of life issues.
This study directly addresses concerns that parents and children facing advanced cancer express in the literature about communication about end of life. The WW-PC seeks to offer much needed relief to families facing advanced cancer by providing them the tools they need to communicate effectively with their children about the illness and ways to cope.