Loss of relationship: a qualitative study of families and healthcare providers after patient death and home-based palliative care ends
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BACKGROUND: Home-based palliative care is care of the patient in their home, while doctors and other healthcare providers (HCPs) make visits as required. Family involvement naturally cultivates a relationship between HCPs and the family. Once the patient dies and home-based palliative care ends, this relationship is abruptly terminated, which may be challenging to both the family and the HCPs. The objective of this study was to understand the thoughts and opinions of HCPs and families on their encountered loss of relationship at the end of home-based palliative care. METHODS: Perceptions of 63 participants (32 HCPs and 31 family members) were explored using semi-structured interviews and the qualitative research methodologies of grounded theory. HCPs were interviewed at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care (TLCPC), a home-based palliative care group of physicians, and 2 hospitals in Toronto, while family members were recruited from TLCPC's records of deceased patients. RESULTS: Six overarching themes, relating to HCP-family relationship dynamics, the experience of loss of relationship, and potential solutions, were derived from the data: (I) home palliative care is intimate; (II) dissatisfaction is experienced with abrupt relationship ending; (III) families benefit from open communication, especially after patient death; (IV) HCPs recognize the insufficiency in bereavement resources; (V) benefits are recognized for a system to ease loss of relationship, and lastly; (VI) challenges with introducing such a system concern HCP. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, families and HCPs do not like the loss of relationship post-patient death, and recognize the potential benefits of an approach that would allow for communication going forward.
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