Family caregivers in critical end-of-life situations (NRP 67)

Many people would prefer to spend their last days at home. Family members, friends, and acquaintances are often committed to fulfilling this wish. Nevertheless, many people die in hospitals or homes, due to emergency hospital admissions shortly before they pass away. The deciding factors are mental and physical strain on the part of all involved, lack of knowledge about suffering and dying and on how to deal with typical symptoms, but also insufficient support from or even inappropriate reactions on the part of professionals in critical situations. Seeing their family members spending their last days in the intensive care unit is often stressful for family members. They feel guilty because they were not able to fulfil the dying person’s wish to die at home.

The aim of this study was to examine critical situations at the end of life of persons who are being cared for at home. Family caregivers were asked what kind of services and which conditions would be needed to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. To investigate the effects of various conditions and cultural differences, the study was conducted in the French- and German-speaking parts of two cantons, Valais and Fribourg.