Caring for Bereaved Family Caregivers: Analyzing the Context of Care

Lorraine F. Holtslander

caregiver stress, family and caregivers, depression
CJON 2008, 12(3), 501-506. DOI: 10.1188/08.CJON.501-506

Deaths from cancer will continue to rise with an increasing and aging population. Family caregivers of patients with cancer will face loss, grief, and bereavement as a result. As mandated by cancer and palliative care clinical practice guidelines, support for family caregivers continues through the processes of grief and bereavement to facilitate a positive transition through loss. To provide evidence-based nursing with this population, an analysis of their context of care was undertaken. Key health policies, characteristics of the healthcare delivery system, and the results of research with bereaved palliative caregivers are described. A model of effectiveness, efficiency, and equity is used to examine the situation of bereaved caregivers and to suggest research questions to fill the gaps in what is known about their needs and experience. Bereaved caregivers are at high risk for many distressing symptoms, including depression and sleeplessness, related to a range of complex variables, such as age, gender, social support, resources, and their experiences during caregiving. Current systems of support have not been adequate to meet the needs of this population and very little is known about the caregivers' quality of life, well-being, and health outcomes or how best to provide compassionate and effective nursing care.

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