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Bereaved informal cancer carers making sense of their palliative care experiences at home

This qualitative study explored the positive meanings constructed and ascribed to the experience of providing palliative care at home by bereaved informal cancer carers, a group of individuals who are in a position to make sense of their caring experiences as a coherent whole. Twenty-two bereaved cancer carers, living in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, were interviewed as part of a larger mixed-method study examining the experience of informal cancer care. Participants were recruited through cancer support groups and cancer clinics, and through the Cancer Council NSW. Accounts of positive aspects of palliative caring were analysed using a thematic analytical approach from a constructionist perspective. The findings indicated that these bereaved carers gave accounts that accentuated the benefit and satisfaction derived from providing direct palliative care at home, which enabled them to construct positive meanings associated with their participation in the dying process, and as a result to ascribe subjectively meaningful interpretations to their loved ones’ death and their sense of loss. This included a sense of reward for doing something good, meeting the expressed needs of the patient, continuing with normal life as much as possible, improving the conditions of the relationship and meeting cultural expectations of the right thing to do. Being present at the point of death was positioned as rewarding because it facilitated the process of saying goodbye, fostered inclusion of others, provided closure and was a spiritual experience. These findings suggest that there are positive and rewarding aspects associated with providing informal cancer care in a palliative context, and these aspects were pertinent and meaningful for carers in their endeavours to reconcile the difficulties and loss they experienced. This has implications for the prevention and amelioration of distress experienced by informal cancer carers, and suggests that future research should not ignore the positive aspects of providing palliative care.

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Additional Titles
Health and Social Care in the Community (Print edition)

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Type of Reference
0966-0410, 0966-0410
Resource Database
British nursing index bni - exported on 8/7/2016
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