Objective: The aim of this paper is to delineate the particular nature of the end-of-life care experience from the perspective of family members and friends. Ideas drawn from feminist analyses of caring and the sociology of death and dying are used to illuminate study respondents' accounts.
Methods: Qualitative study with people who cared for a family member or friend who died of breast cancer. Two interviews were conducted with each of 12 study participants, and one carer responded by letter to a series of questions drawn from the interview guide. Accounts were analyzed with reference to grounded theory methods.
Results: The analysis presented here suggests that anticipating the death of an ill relative or friend generates imperatives to care, imperatives that are both “felt” and linked to wider social structures and processes. The value assigned to closeness with the ill person can be seen to reflect cultural injunctions toward a “good death,” and to shape informal carers' perceptions of their labor. Also discussed in this paper are the complex negotiations undertaken by relatives and friends, for the life and death of someone with advanced cancer.
Significance of results: This paper offers insight into the social processes of caregiving, revealing how care may be shaped in particular ways by an awareness of approaching death.