Patient-focused, family-centered end-of-life medical care: views of the guidelines and bereaved family members

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2001 Sep;22(3):738-51. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(01)00335-9.


A fundamental barrier to improving the quality of medical care at the end of life is the lack of measurement tools. The Toolkit of Instruments to Measure End of Life Care (TIME) aims to fill that void by creating measurement tools that capture the patient and family perspective. To develop a conceptual model for a retrospective survey of bereaved family members that incorporates both professional and family perspectives on what constitutes good care at the end of life, a qualitative literature review of existing professional guidelines and six focus groups with bereaved family members from acute care hospitals (n = 2), nursing homes (n = 2), and hospice/VNA home health services (n = 2) was performed. The focus groups were held in Arizona, New York, and Massachusetts and included 42 bereaved family members/friends contacted 3-12 months from the time of patient's death. Domains of care that define quality end-of-life care were defined. Focus group participants defined high quality medical care as: 1) providing dying persons with desired physical comfort; 2) helping dying persons control decisions about medical care and daily routines; 3) relieving family members of the burden of being present at all times to advocate for their loved one; 4) educating family members so they felt confident to care for their loved ones at home; and 5) providing family members with emotional support both before and after the patient's death. The qualitative literature review yielded similar results, except that the professional guidelines did not mention the advocacy burden felt by families. These two sources provided the foundation for a conceptual model of patient-focused, family-centered medical care and a new tool for surveying bereaved family members. Views of bereaved family members' stories and professional guidelines help to identify key domains of quality of end-of-life care. A new survey instrument provides a way to incorporate the perspectives of bereaved family members in measuring the quality of end-of-life care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Data Collection
  • Family / psychology*
  • Focus Groups / standards*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*
  • Terminal Care / standards*