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How can nurses ease the emotional distress many patients feel at life's end? A study involving 100 Canadian and Australian patients found that an intervention called dignity therapy helped lift depression and increase terminally ill patients' sense of purpose and meaning in life.


A group of researchers developed dignity therapy after years of asking dying patients what dying with dignity meant to them. It involves encouraging patients to talk about their lives and accomplishments, saying anything they feel their friends and families should know. Their words are recorded and transcribed, then given to a chosen family member or friend.


The study participants experienced dignity therapy along with hospice or home-based care. Among the findings:


* 91% reported being satisfied with dignity therapy


* 81% said dignity therapy had or would be of help to their family


* 76% reported a heightened sense of dignity


* 68% reported an increased sense of purpose.



A larger study to be conducted in the United States, Canada, and Australia is being planned.




Dignity therapy: A novel psychotherapeutic intervention for patients near theend of life, Journal of Clinical Oncology, HM Chochinov, et al., August 20, 2005.