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The dying parent and dependent children: a nationwide survey of hospice and community palliative care support services

Cockle Hearne, Jane, Reed, Liz, Todd, Jennifer and Ream, Emma (2020) The dying parent and dependent children: a nationwide survey of hospice and community palliative care support services BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

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Background Annually, across the world a substantial number of dependent children experience the death of a parent through life-limiting illness. Without support, this has long-term implications for children’s emotional, social and physical well-being, impacting on health and social care services globally. Limited information exists on how service providers are meeting family needs when a parent with dependent children is dying.

Aim To determine the bereavement support provided to families with dependent children by UK hospices before and after a parent’s death.

Design A 23-item, cross-sectional, web-based survey of adult UK hospices. Closed and open-ended questions were asked about the features of support provided; open ended response was sought to a question about the challenges faced by hospices in delivering support. Descriptive and non-parametric statistics and framework analysis were used to analyse the data.

Results 197 hospices were invited to participate. Response rate was 66% (130/197). More types of support were provided after, than before, parental death (mean 6.36/5.64, z = -5.767, p ˂0001). 22% of hospices reported no formal processes for asking or documenting the presence of dependent children. Volunteers were an under-used resource before parental death. Four themes characterised challenges in delivering support for families: emotional difficulties for families; practical and social difficulties for families; funding/resources; and staff training/numbers.

Conclusions Family needs are not consistently being met when a parent is dying. Areas for development include: enhanced systems to record when patients have dependent children; flexible approaches to support vulnerable families; staff training to help communication with families and management of their own fears of making the situation worse. Effective educational interventions and service developments to better support staff, parents, and children are needed.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Authors :
Cockle Hearne,
Reed, Liz
Todd, Jennifer
Date : 9 March 2020
DOI : 10.1136/bmjspcare-2019-001947
Copyright Disclaimer : © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Hospices; Palliative Care; Parental Death; Family; Children; Bereavement Support
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 06 Dec 2019 09:20
Last Modified : 30 Apr 2020 10:24

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