Background: Hospices are an important component of children's palliative care provision and increasing numbers of children/young people with life-limiting conditions mean that the demand placed on them for support is likely to increase. However, there has been a lack of published research examining how families experience the support provided by children's hospices.
Methods: The aim of the study was to investigate parents' and young people's perceptions of hospice support and identify how support could be improved. A mixed-method approach was used involving a postal survey of families and in-depth qualitative interviews with a purposively sampled subsample of parents and young people.
Results: A total of 108 (49.8% response rate) questionnaires were returned and interviews were conducted with 12 parents and seven young people. Families were highly satisfied with the support provided in terms of quality of care; interpersonal qualities of the staff; the individualized, family-focused approach; accessibility of support and involvement in decision making. Young people valued the opportunity to meet with other young people and take part in different activities. For parents the provision of a break from caring was the main way in which they were supported although they felt they wanted more of this form of support. A consistent theme in relation to support for young people and siblings was the need to develop facilities, activities and bereavement support specifically for teenagers/young people.
Conclusions: Parents value a model of care that provides holistic, family-focused support that is responsive to individual needs and which promotes control and active involvement in decision making. The key challenge now is to respond to increasing need and a changing population of users.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.