Caregivers experiences of managing medications for palliative care patients at the end of life: a qualitative study

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2014 Mar;31(2):148-54. doi: 10.1177/1049909113482514.


Informal caregivers are important in enabling palliative care patients to die at home, including their role in managing medications. Often these patients are taking multiple medications, imposing an unnecessary burden on those who are already struggling with oral intake. A literature review revealed that, while there are a number of qualitative studies published examining the experience of caregivers looking after patients at the end of life, there is a dearth of published studies specifically examining the impact of managing medications on caregivers. This study explores the experience of caregivers managing medications for patients dying at home, focusing on the impact of polypharmacy, the use of syringe drivers and the use of "as needed" medications for symptom control. Three focus groups were performed, involving bereaved caregivers of patients that had died at home, and were analysed using content thematic analysis. Themes that emerged include: the significant burden of polypharmacy; the positive impact of subcutaneous infusions; the value of being able to give medications as needed for symptom control; the importance of clear guidance to assist with medication management. Strategies are suggested that might ease the burden of medications at the end of life.

Keywords: caregivers; home care; medication therapy management; palliative care; polypharmacy; syringe driver.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Drug Therapy / methods
  • Drug Therapy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Polypharmacy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Syringes
  • Terminal Care / psychology*