End-of-life dreams and visions as perceived by palliative care professionals: A qualitative study

Palliat Support Care. 2022 Dec;20(6):801-806. doi: 10.1017/S1478951521001681.


Objective: End-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs) have been suggested to be prevalent psychic phenomena near death that can provide meaning and comfort for the dying. There is a lack of studies from the secular Nordic countries. The aim of this study was to determine whether palliative care professionals in a Nordic country have experience of patients expressing dreams, visions, and/or inner experiences and, if so, how they are perceived.

Method: Focus-group interviews with 18 professionals in end-of-life palliative care were subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Results: Most (15/18) professionals had experience of patients with ELDVs. A dominant content was deceased loved ones. According to most professionals, many patients perceived their ELDVs as real and could report them with clarity. The experience could result in peacefulness for patients, as well as loved ones, and reduce fear of death. Some professionals themselves perceived ELDVs to be real and a normal part of dying while a few found them scary. Most professionals, however, found ELDVs hard to grasp. Many tried to explain the phenomena as the result of medical circumstances and confusion, although reporting that they considered most patients to be normal and of sound mind in connection with their reports on ELDVs. Most patients wanted to talk about their ELDVs, but some could be reluctant due to fear of being considered crazy. The professionals were open-minded and reported having no problem talking about it with the patients and tried to normalize the experience thereby calming the patient and loved ones.

Significance of results: The results strengthen the suggestion that ELDVs are common phenomena near death, worldwide. Although most professionals in palliative care recognized ELDVs as beneficial to patients, many found the phenomena hard to grasp and sometimes difficult to distinguish from confusion, indicating a continuous need for exploration and education.

Keywords: End-of-life dreams and visions; End-of-life experiences; Palliative care; Qualitative research; Spirituality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Terminal Care*