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A critical analysis of health promotion and 'empowerment' in the context of palliative family care-giving

Traditionally viewed as in opposition to palliative care, newer ideas about ‘health-promoting palliative care’ increasingly infuse the practices and philosophies of healthcare professionals, often invoking ideals of empowerment and participation in care and decision-making. The general tendency is to assume that empowerment, participation, and self-care are universally beneficial for and welcomed by all individuals. But does this assumption hold for everyone, and do we fully understand the implications of health-promoting palliative care for family caregivers in particular? In this study, we draw on existing literature to highlight potential challenges arising from the application of ‘family empowerment’ strategies in palliative home-care nursing practice. In particular, there is a risk that empowerment may be operationalized as transferring technical and medical-care tasks to family caregivers at home. Yet, for some family caregivers, a sense of security and support, as well as trust in professionals, may be equally if not more important than empowerment. Relational and role concerns may also at times take precedence over a desire for empowerment. The potential implications of ‘family empowerment’ are explored in this regard. ‘Family empowerment’ approaches need to be accompanied by a strong understanding of how to best support individual palliative family caregivers.

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Nurs Inq

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