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How does spirituality manifest in family caregivers of terminally ill cancer patients? A qualitative secondary analysis

, Max Treutlein, Marianna Theochari, Carsten Bokemeyer, Karin Oechsle, Anneke Ullrich
Palliative and Supportive Care pp 1-10; doi:10.1017/s1478951521000353

Abstract: Objective Considering the risk of spiritual distress among terminally ill patients, experts long agree that spiritual care has to be an integral component of palliative care. Despite this consensus, the role of spirituality among family caregivers remains largely unexplored. We aimed to describe how spirituality manifests in the lived experience of family caregivers (FCs) in a palliative care context. Method As part of a secondary analysis, data derived from two qualitative primary studies on FCs’ burdens and needs in the context of caring for a patient with a diagnosis of incurable cancer. Previously transcribed interviews were examined by means of a thematic analysis, transcending the focus of the primary studies to examine how spirituality arises and/or persists in the life of FCs from the time of diagnosis of incurable cancer up until bereavement. Results Twenty-nine narratives were explored and all included spirituality as a relevant theme. Analysis revealed four aspects associated with the presence of spirituality among FCs’ experiences: “Connectedness,” “Religious Faith,” “Transcendence,” “Hope,” and a fifth overarching aspect which we named “Ongoing integration of spiritual experience.” Spirituality appeared as a multilayered phenomenon and was shaped individually among FCs’ narratives. Significance of results In view of the results, exploring and discussing spirituality and underlying experiences in the situation as an FC seems likely to widen the perspective on FCs’ problems and needs. Further research on spiritual needs among FCs of patients with incurable life-limiting cancer is deemed necessary.
Keywords: Family caregivers / Palliative care / Qualitative research / Spiritual care / Spirituality

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