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Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education


Background: Canadian palliative care (PC) philosophy seeks to support individuals in a person-centered and sensitive manner. Unfortunately, philosophy does not necessarily translate into practice and this divide may leave patients without appropriate care at the end of life, causing distress for some families. The primary goal of the study was to identify key factors affecting perceptions of quality PC from the perspective of informal caregivers and decision makers (e.g., program managers) and to understand how their experiences within the health care system may have influenced their perceptions.

Methods: Nine caregivers and 11 decision makers from Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, & Nova Scotia shared their experiences in PC via interview or focus group. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and qualitatively analyzed for themes.

Results: Three themes emerged, including the Caregiver as Anchor, Bewildering System, and Patient, Caregiver, and Family-Centered Care. While these results resembled other studies on caregivers and individuals receiving PC, the present study also uncovered systemic concerns. There was agreement between the two participant groups across most subthemes, however only caregivers reported feelings of being trapped by the health care system and a general lack of respect from health care professionals. Additionally, caregivers stressed the importance of preserving some sort of normalcy in daily life despite the individual's illness.

Conclusions: Caregivers are critical. The health care system expects them to help a great deal, but they often do not feel supported or respected and the system is lacking the capacity and resources to meet their needs while they are grieving loss and struggling to meet demands.


Published in BMC Palliative Care 2022, under a CC BY 4.0 license.