The aim of this study was to develop a theoretical framework of family members' experience of palliative home care staff based on a secondary analysis of four previous studies. A salutogenic framework was used, i.e. with the origin of health in focus. Data had been collected (semi-structured tape-recorded interviews and postal questionnaires with open-ended questions) from 469 family members of mainly cancer patients referred to advanced palliative home care. Walker and Avant's strategies for theory construction were used. The secondary analysis generated three theoretical blocks: (1) general components of staff input (including five generalized resistance resources (GRRs): competence, support, spectrum of services, continuity, and accessibility); (2) specific interactions with staff (including two GRRs: being in the centre and sharing caring); (3) emotional and existential consequences of staff support (including six health-disease continuums: security-insecurity, hope–hopelessness, congruent inner reality-chaos, togetherness-isolation, self-transcendence-feelings of insufficiency and retained everyday life-disrupted everyday life). It seems important that all three aspects of family members' experience of palliative care staff are to be considered in evaluations of palliative care, in goal-setting and in teaching role models. The study is specific to the Swedish model of palliative home care and replication of the work in other countries is recommended. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.