Bereaved family members’ VOICES of support and care during the last three months of life for people with advanced illness

Abstract: This thesis is in the subject of palliative care within the research field ‘The individual in the Welfare society’. The overall aim was to investigate bereaved family members’ experiences of support and care during the last three months of life for people with advanced illness. It encompasses four studies, in study I theVOICES (SF) (Views of Informal Carers – Evaluation of Services (Short Form))questionnaire was validated, and in studies II-IV a survey design was employed using VOICES (SF). The survey sample consisted of 485 bereaved family members (20-90 years old, 70.7% women) of people who had died in one of four hospitals, in two Swedish healthcare regions, between August 2016 and April 2017. VOICES (SF) was found feasible for use in a Swedish context in study I,however, the construct of some parts in the questionnaire was found not to be optimal when used in studies II-IV. Further development and validation is, therefore, recommended. The care place/care service was central for family members’ experiences of care and support. The importance of that the ill persons received care according to their needs was stressed, but the delivery of the care -with respect, dignity and empathy - was equally important. Most of the family members were satisfied with the care; however, about a fifth were not, indicating a need for improvement. The type of care, diagnosis, length of illness, educational attainment, and the relationship between the deceased person and the family member, influenced the experiences of care. This confirms that there are potential inequalities in care at the end of life. End-of-life communication and the support given to family members was not experienced as optimal. Family members expressed the importance of healthcare staff providing them with clear information, their own difficulties in recognising imminent death, and the value of a follow-up conversation with a healthcare professional who was present at the time of death. This thesis project has provided novel and important knowledge about the content and quality of care during the last few months of life, for all groups with potential palliative care needs, hence contributing to the discourse concerning quality of care at the end of life and placing care at the end of life on the agenda of the Swedish welfare society.