Parents' experiences of a Family Support Program when a parent has incurable cancer

J Clin Nurs. 2009 Dec;18(24):3480-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.02871.x. Epub 2009 Sep 3.


Aims and objectives: The Family Support Program was created to support children and parenting when one of the parents has incurable cancer. We chose a family-based approach to support parent's coping and to help families pull together, identify strengths in the family and learn how to seek help.

Background: Cancer is usually a new experience for young families. In most cases, parents do not have the necessary knowledge about their children's need for information and support about their parent's serious illness and impending death.

Design: A qualitative evaluation study based on data collected through in-depth interviews focusing on parent's experiences with the Family Support Program.

Methods: Participants were patients with incurable cancer and their partners and ex-partners with children aged between 5-18 years. Thirteen parents were in-depth interviewed.

Results: Parents described how the Family Support Program helped them gain greater insight into their children's thoughts and reactions and into how the situation affected their daily living. Parents reported that conflicts were reduced, they could talk more openly about the situation in the family and that they were shown how to support their children's coping.

Conclusion: The Family Support Program met the parents in the study's needs for more information and support about how to cope with their children during the patient's terminal illness.

Relevance to clinical practice: The Family Support Program is described in detail in a manual that makes it easy for other health workers to use the same programme. The Family Support program was in use in outpatient clinics, oncology wards and palliative care units and was provided both from nurses and social workers trained in cancer care. Parent's in the study would like the Family Support Program to be available to all patients who receive the poor prognosis that their cancer cannot be cured.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / nursing
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Norway
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self-Help Groups / organization & administration*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Terminally Ill / psychology