heart medical imageA hospital in Hong Kong is trialing a new Cognitive Behavioural Education (CBE) programme for family members of critically ill patients, with the aim of reducing stress and anxiety.

Having a relative in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) canbe very stressful for family members –particularly those who spend time caring for them – and may lead to unhealthy emotions and behaviours that have a detrimental effect on the family as a whole.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University researchers are studying the effectiveness of a short CBE course for reducing stress and boosting needs satisfaction for family carers in ICUs. CBE aims to try and control negative thoughts and emotions with a variety of exercises. It works on the principle that even though external sources of stress (also known as stressors) may not change (having a relative in intensive care, for example) individuals can change their emotional reaction to these circumstances and reduce feelings of depression and hopelessness.

This kind of therapy is often used to effectively treat long term depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Researchers hope it will also help family members of ICU patients. They will measure family members’ mood using the Chinese version of the Depression and Anxiety Stress scale (DASS). This uses questions, answered on a scale from 0-3, to assess the severity of depression, stress and anxiety. Researchers will provide CBE treatment to some family members and compare the stress and satisfaction of these family members receiving CBE to those who receive no additional care.

If successful, this study will pave the way for future research into family stress and anxiety management on a larger scale. It is hoped that family member care in the form of this kind of therapy will become integrated into standard ICU nursing care.

For further information contact:

Dr Vico Chiang
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Email: hsvicoch@inet.polyu.edu.hk