Objectives: To investigate the experiential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with non-COVID, life-threatening disease and their family carers.
Design: An interpretative qualitative design informed by phenomenological hermeneutics and based on data from in-depth interviews, performed between June and September 2020.
Setting: Patients receiving specialised palliative home care and their family carers living in Sweden.
Participants: 22 patients (male/female 11/11) and 17 carers (male/female 5/12) aged 50 years and older. All the patients received specialised palliative home care and most were diagnosed with cancer.
Inclusion criteria: aged 18 years or older, diagnosed with an incurable life-threatening, non-COVID disease, sufficient strength to participate and capacity to provide informed consent. Participants were selected through a combination of convenient and consecutive sampling.
Results: The significance of the pandemic for both patients and carers showed a continuum from being minimally affected in comparison to the severe underlying disease to living in isolation with constant fear of becoming infected and falling ill with COVID-19, which some likened to torture.The imposed restrictions on social contact due to the pandemic were particularly palpable for this group of people with a non-COVID-19, life-limiting condition, as it was said to steal valuable moments of time that had already been measured.Most patients and carers found access to specialised palliative home care was maintained despite the pandemic. This care was of paramount importance for their sense of security and was often their sole visiting social contact.
Conclusions: In the pandemic situation, highly accessible support from healthcare and social care at home is particularly important to create security for both patients and carers. Thus, to provide appropriate support, it is important for healthcare and social care personnel to be aware of the great diversity of reactions patients in palliative care and their carers may have to a pandemic threat.
Keywords: COVID-19; palliative care; qualitative research.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.