Caring for people dying in acute hospitals: A mixed-methods study to examine relative's perceptions of care

Palliat Support Care. 2015 Apr;13(2):335-43. doi: 10.1017/S1478951514000066. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Objective: Improving the care provided for people dying in acute healthcare facilities has been identified as a priority for Australian healthcare. Previous observations support the idea that quality care improves outcomes for the dying person as well as for their relatives. To improve care it is essential that there be a clear understanding of which issues require attention. The aim of our project was to improve the understanding of the experiences of family members whose relatives had died on an acute medical ward.

Method: A mixed-methods approach was adopted for our study. With the approval of the human ethics committee, relatives were approached within three months of the death of their family member and invited to participate in an interview based on a quality-of-dying-and-death (QoDD) tool.

Results: Of the 50 families approached, 10 agreed to be interviewed. When they were asked to reflect on the experiences of the dying person, the issues that they articulated most strongly related to the need to have time before death to address issues and spend time with important others. With regards to the needs of the dying person's relatives, people articulated strongly that they needed information, support, and evidence of good symptom control. The provision of support post-death was also poignantly highlighted.

Significance of results: This study supports observations made in other clinical areas that have identified that timely communication, good symptom control, and ongoing support for both the dying person and their family has important ramifications. Articulating such details is an important part of understanding which aspects of care require attention.

Keywords: Palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • New South Wales
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Terminal Care / standards*