Are family carers part of the care team providing end-of-life care? A qualitative interview study on the collaboration between family and professional carers.


Authors: Maarten Vermorgen, Isabel Vandenbogaerde, Chantal Van Audenhove, Peter Hudson, Luc Deliens, Joachim Cohen, Aline De Vleminck

Palliative medicine (2020)


The attention of healthcare professionals is directed mainly towards the recipients of care and often insufficiently towards family carers. However, an effective collaboration between professionals and family carers is vital to provide quality palliative and end-of-life care. Such collaboration is under-studied in a palliative care context.


This study aimed to investigate how family carers of people who live at home with a life-limiting chronic illness experience and perceive collaboration with different healthcare professionals in the last phase of life.


Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with the primary family carers of people with a life-limiting chronic illness. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to analyse the data.


A heterogeneous sample of 30 family carers of people with cancer, heart failure or dementia was recruited through a variety of care providers and services, in order to reflect the heterogeneity of caregiving in serious illness.


Five main themes emerged from interpretative phenomenological analysis that describe the quality of the collaboration between family carers and professionals: respecting family carers both as someone with care needs and as a member of the care team; the continuous availability and accessibility of healthcare professionals; the provision of information and communication including family carer issues; the coordination of care between all parties and contextual factors. The dominant experience by family carers was one of missed opportunities across these themes.


This qualitative study about the experiences and perceptions of family carers of people with a chronic life-limiting illness living at home regarding the collaboration with different healthcare providers in the last phase life, showed that family carers experience a lot of possibilities, but perceive missed opportunities as well, for healthcare professionals to effectively collaborate with them for palliative care.

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