Caring for relatives of dying patients

In the CFFOP study, observations and carer accounts indicated the difference that staff could make to relatives’ experience of supporting a dying patient on the ward.

In particular, staff rarely helped relatives prepare for the death by informing them about what to expect during the process of dying. This meant that they could be confused and sometimes distressed by the changes they perceived staff to be making in patient care.

Gestures of simple hospitality, such as fetching chairs or offering cups of tea, were well within the range of possibility but, as in Susan’s case, were not always offered to relatives attending the ward even for extended periods of time.

Some carers described what we termed a sense of ‘abandonment’ when staff were not welcoming, and did not make themselves available to relatives visiting dying patients on the ward.

Other accounts illustrate the impact that even small tokens of acknowledgement and consideration could have.

Select each clipboard for interview notes:

Audio transcript