Motor Neurone Disease family carers' experiences of caring, palliative care and bereavement: an exploratory qualitative study

Palliat Med. 2012 Sep;26(6):842-50. doi: 10.1177/0269216311416036. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Background: Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a neurodegenerative disease with a sudden onset, a rapid progression, a profile of complex disabilities and fatal consequences. Caring for a person with MND is an unremitting commitment, yet little research has examined the experiences and needs of carers for palliative care and bereavement care.

Aim: This study explored the experiences of MND family carers, both during their time as carers and following bereavement. Particular attention was paid to the carers' prolonged grief status and to the implications for service delivery, including palliative care.

Design: A qualitative approach consisted of interviews with 16 bereaved family carers. The Prolonged Grief tool (PG-13) measured the carers' prolonged grief.

Setting/participants: sixteen family carers participated in the study, between one and four years after the death of their spouse from MND in Western Australia.

Results: The thematic analysis of the interview transcripts revealed five themes - the work of family carers, the change in relationship from spouse to family carer, family caring as a series of losses, coping mechanisms of family carers and supportive and palliative care experiences of family carers. The six participants who met the criteria for prolonged grief disorder accessed palliative care at a later stage in the disease trajectory.

Conclusions: The study provided a basis for more research into the role palliative care services has in supporting MND carers before and after the death of their spouse and in particular the provision of more tailored respite and bereavement support.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bereavement*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neuron Disease / nursing*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / psychology
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / standards
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires