Family caregiver skills in medication management for hospice patients: a qualitative study to define a construct

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Nov;64(6):799-807. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp033. Epub 2009 May 23.


Objectives: To propose a theoretical construct of family caregiver skills in effective medication management for home hospice patients.

Methods: Semistructured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 22 hospice providers (14 nurses, 4 physicians, and 4 social workers) and 23 family caregivers (10 daughters, 4 wives, 2 husbands, and 7 others) of elderly patients (>or=60 years old) who were receiving home services from four hospice care programs in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Results: Although both groups identified similar skill sets, hospice providers emphasized technical skills such as administering medications, and family caregivers valued management skills such as organizing medications, coordinating with hired caregivers, and providing care to patients who resisted treatment. We defined effective medication management in hospice as caregivers' ability to effectively relieve symptoms with pharmacological interventions by successfully utilizing skills related to teamwork (coordinate with hospice providers and with other family or hired caregivers), organization (acquire, store, track, and discard medications), symptom knowledge (recognize and interpret common symptoms), medication knowledge (understand the basics of pharmacology and medication administration), and personhood (understand and respond to the patient's needs).

Discussion: The proposed construct of medication management skills in hospice will help guide future development of training interventions and clinical assessment tools.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Chicago
  • Chronic Disease / nursing*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Drug Therapy / nursing*
  • Drug Therapy / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Home Nursing / psychology*
  • Hospice Care* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Morphine / adverse effects
  • Pain Measurement / nursing
  • Professional-Family Relations


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Morphine