How nurses support family caregivers in the complex context of end-of-life home care: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Background: Family caregivers are crucial in providing end-of-life care at home. Without their care, it would be difficult for many patients to die at home. In addition to providing care, family caregivers also need support for themselves. Nurses could play an important role in supporting family caregivers, but little is known about if and how they do so. The aim of this study is to explore how nurses currently approach and support family caregivers in end-of-life home care and which factors influence their support of family caregivers. Methods: Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 14 nurses from nine home care organisations in the Netherlands, in 2018. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Results: We identified two underlying nursing perspectives on supporting family caregivers: an instrumental perspective (seeing family caregivers mostly as collaborative partners in care) and a relational perspective (seeing family caregivers as both providing and needing support). All the interviewed nurses stated that they pay attention to family caregivers’ needs. The activities mentioned most often were: identification of support needs, practical education, support in decision-making about the patient’s treatment, emotional support, and organising respite care, such as night care, to relieve the family caregiver. The provision of support is usually based on intuition and experience, rather than on a systematic approach. Besides, nurses reported different factors at the individual, organisational and societal levels that influenced their support of family caregivers, such as their knowledge and experience, the way in which care is organised, and laws and regulations. Conclusions: Nurses tend to address family caregivers’ needs, but such care was affected by various factors at different levels. There is a risk that nursing support does not meet family caregivers’ needs. A more reflective approach is needed and evidence-based needs assessment tools may help nurses to systematically assess family caregivers’ needs and to provide appropriate support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number162
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) (Grant number 844001313).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

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