Objectives: The aim of this study is to clarify the actual experiences and preferences of the bereaved family for the care of their deceased family member.
Methods: At 95 palliative care units in Japan, a cross-sectional nationwide survey of the bereaved families of cancer patients was performed in 2007.
Results: Of the 670 questionnaires sent to bereaved families, 492 were returned (response rate of 76%). The overall requirement to improve the end-of-life care was rated as follows: improvement needed (42.7%) and no improvement needed (58%). In total, 9.4% of the families reported that they experienced problems with the deceased body after leaving the hospital, including a change in the facial appearance (8.5%), stains on the body (8%), and an odor emanating from the body (4%). Regarding the preferences for treatment procedures, over half the families preferred not to have traditional procedures performed in which the deceased's hands are joined with a band, the jaws are tied with a band around the face to close the mouth, and the body is wrapped in a sheet. The most preferable treatment procedure was to have makeup applied lightly and moderately. Maintaining the appearance of the deceased body was related to the overall care evaluation of end-of-life care.
Conclusions: As the preferences for the care of deceased bodies are changing, end-of-life care needs to be improved with respect to culture, religious views, and the wishes of the patient and their family.