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Mitigating End-of-Life Burden: Parallel Perspectives of Physician-Patients & Family Caregivers

      Abstract

      Context

      Patients and family caregivers perceive burden in care at the end of life differently even when the patient is a physican.

      Objectives

      We describe how older adult physicians as prospective patients (hereafter “physician-patients”) and family caregivers of physician-patients view burden in care at the end of life.

      Methods

      Interviews with physician-patients (n = 28) and family caregivers (n = 26) of physician-patients who had died were conducted as part of a shared decision-making study. Both groups expressed concerns with burden at the end of life. We coded and analyzed descriptions of burden using inductive and deductive approaches to coding sub-themes as in qualitative description. We then created a conceptual model depicting the relationships among the concepts, returning to the interviews to verify respective contexts.

      Results

      Unilateral actions taken at different points in the illness trajectory by both groups suggested different concerns about burden occurring in parallel. While everyone anticipated burden associated with care at the end of life, physician-patients made legal and financial arrangements to minimize this burden. Nevertheless several family caregivers described the burden that they experienced. We propose a conceptual model to guide future research and care.

      Conclusion

      Physician-Patients ‘ clinical insights drive their attempts to alleviate burden on their families. However, family caregivers still experienced burden. Recognizing the parallel perspectives of burden may inform the type and timing of interventions to effectively minimize burden and provide compassionate care to both patients and families at the end of life.

      Key Words

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