Family beliefs regarding the nutritional care of a terminally ill relative: a qualitative study

J Palliat Med. 2003 Oct;6(5):737-48. doi: 10.1089/109662103322515248.


Objective: To develop a conceptual model of family caregiver beliefs and behavior related to nutritional care of the terminally ill by examining the perspectives of family members, patients, and health care providers.

Design: Qualitative study using in-depth, open-ended, face to face interviews, participant observation, and content analysis.

Participants: A total of 47 participants from 4 groups: hospitalized palliative patients with cancer (n = 13), family members of hospitalized palliative patients with cancer (n = 13), health care providers on a palliative care unit (n = 11), and bereaved family members who had previously experienced the death of a relative on a palliative care unit.

Outcome measures: Participant views on nutritional care in the terminal phases of illness.

Results: There is marked variability in the ways family members respond to a dying cachectic anorexic relative. The overarching theme of "doing what's best" captures this variability and integrates the major categories into the key analytic model emerging from this study.

Conclusion: We have developed a conceptual model of family beliefs regarding the nutritional care of a hospitalized terminally ill relative. The model has implications for education, practice, and research regarding nutritional care in the palliative care setting.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*