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Grieving in a Pandemic: How COVID-19 Has Impacted Bereavement for Family Caregivers of Hospice Cancer Patients (SCI948)

Objectives: 1. Analyze 1-4 aspects of bereavement that have been impacted by COVID-19 for family caregivers of advanced cancer hospice patients. 2. Evaluate the strategies implemented by family caregivers to overcome isolation and maintain connectedness during the Coronavirus pandemic. Background: As Coronavirus has spread to the US, it has changed family caregivers' hospice experiences including bereavement. To examine the impact of a global pandemic on connectedness and isolation in bereavement among hospice family caregivers using automated phone diaries. Aim: We examined phone diaries of bereaved hospice family caregivers of cancer patients from a larger multi-site longitudinal study for COVID and non-COVID related references to isolation and connectedness. Methods: Participants were asked to complete daily phone diaries through an automated system from the time they consented to 6 months after the patient's death. Recordings were selected between March 13 and May 15, 2020 from bereaved caregivers. Summative content analysis using deductive codes was conducted to examine diaries for physical/social isolation and connection. Isolation was defined as having no other person in close physical or social contact during bereavement, while connection was defined as feeling attached to others during bereavement. Results: Bereaved caregivers' diaries (N=6; bereavement range=2-7 months) were analyzed. Each caregiver completed audio diaries over the bereavement period (range=1 to 42). Of the 59 diaries, 32 (54.24%) made reference to the coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus references were mentioned by all 6 participants. COVID-related connection was identified 15 times (25.42%), while COVID-related isolation was identified 32 times (54.24%). Non-COVID related connection was identified 20 times (62.5%), while non-COVID related isolation was coded only twice (13.33%). Conclusions and implications: Findings from this study suggest COVID-related social isolation was integral to the bereavement experiences of family caregivers. However, despite the pandemic, caregivers expressed maintaining connectedness to others. This study has implications for hospice support services for bereaved caregivers during the pandemic.

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Journal Of Pain And Symptom Management
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