“Saying goodbye all alone with no close support was difficult”- Dying during the COVID-19 pandemic: an online survey among bereaved relatives about end-of-life care for patients with or without SARS-CoV2 infection

for PallPan and the CO-LIVE study, Karlotta Schloesser*, Steffen T. Simon, Berenike Pauli, Raymond Voltz, Norma Jung, Charlotte Leisse, Agnes van der Heide, Ida J. Korfage, Anne Pralong, Claudia Bausewein, Melanie Joshi, Julia Strupp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: During the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, protection measures, as well as visiting restrictions, had a severe impact on seriously ill and dying patients and their relatives. The study aims to describe the experiences of bereaved relatives of patients who died during the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, regardless of whether patients were infected with SARS-CoV2 or not. As part of this, experiences related to patients’ end-of-life care, saying goodbye, visiting restrictions and communication with the healthcare team were assessed. Methods: An open observational post-bereavement online survey with free text options was conducted with 81 bereaved relatives from people who died during the pandemic in Germany, with and without SARS-CoV2 diagnosis. Results: 67/81 of the bereaved relatives were female, with a mean age of 57.2 years. 50/81 decedents were women, with a mean age of 82.4 years. The main underlying diseases causing death were cardiovascular diseases or cancer. Only 7/81 of the patients were infected with SARS-CoV2. 58/81 of the relatives felt burdened by the visiting restrictions and 60/81 suffered from pandemic-related stress. 10 of the patients died alone due to visiting restrictions. The burden for relatives in the hospital setting was higher compared to relatives of patients who died at home. 45/81 and 44/81 relatives respectively reported that physicians and nurses had time to discuss the patient’s condition. Nevertheless, relatives reported a lack of proactive communication from the healthcare professionals. Conclusions: Visits of relatives play a major role in the care of the dying and have an impact on the bereavement of relatives. Visits must be facilitated, allowing physical contact. Additionally, virtual contact with the patients and open, empathetic communication on the part of healthcare professionals is needed. Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00023552).

Original languageEnglish
Article number998
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2021

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