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Insights from Bereaved Family Members about End-of-Life Care and Bereavement

Background: Bereavement programs provide institutions with an avenue for obtaining feedback from family members about their experiences during a patient's illness and end-of-life (EOL) period that can be used to improve both patient care and the care of bereaved individuals. Objective: We examined family members' experiences about the clinical care their loved one received at EOL and the perceived effect this care had on their subsequent bereavement. Design: Survey. Setting/Subjects: One hundred forty bereaved family members from our cancer institute completed a bereavement survey. Of these family members, 67% were female, 66% were 60 years of age or older, and 81% were widowed. Measurement: We analyzed open-ended responses using NVivo 11 PlusĀ© that asked bereaved family members about the ways the clinical (oncology) team was helpful or not in dealing with their loss. Results: The findings showed that compassionate care, competency, receiving honest facts, and outreach after the death favorably influenced the bereavement experience. Conversely, impersonal contact, lack of contact, including lack of caregiver support, and lack of information about EOL and death were identified as actions taken by the clinical team that were unhelpful in dealing with their loss. Conclusions: The feedback from bereaved family members highlights two areas that could benefit from quality improvement efforts: (1) communication skills that focus on enhancing compassionate connection, including conveying empathy, and providing reassurance and guidance to patients and their families and (2) communication skills that focus on delivering information about prognosis and the EOL period in an honest and direct way.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
Mary Ann Liebert
ISBN/ISSN
1096-6218
Publication Year
2020
Issue Number
8
Journal Titles
Journal of Palliative Medicine
Volume Number
23
Start Page
1030
End Page
1037