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.