Being a family member of a patient who is being treated in an acute care setting for cancer often involves a number of challenges. Our study describes Norwegian cancer care health professionals' perceptions of family members who served as family caregivers (FCs) and their need for support during the in-hospital cancer treatment of their ill family member. Focus group discussions were conducted with a multidisciplinary team of 24 experienced social workers, physicians, and nurses who were closely involved in the patients' in-hospital cancer treatment and care. Drawing on qualitative hermeneutic analysis, four main themes describe health professionals' perceptions of FCs during the patient's in-hospital cancer care: an asset and additional burden, infinitely strong and struggling with helplessness, being an outsider in the center of care, and being in different temporalities. We conclude that it is a challenge for health care professionals to support the family and create room for FC's needs in acute cancer care. System changes are needed in health care, so that the patient/FC dyad is viewed as a unit of care in a dual process of caregiving, which would enable FCs to be given space and inclusion in care, with their own needs simultaneously considered alongside those of the patient.
Keywords: Norway; cancer; family caregivers; family-focused care; health care professional’s perceptions of family; in-patient cancer care.
© The Author(s) 2014.