The end of life: informal care for dying older people and its relationship to place of death

G. Visser, M. Klinkenberg, M.I. Broese Van Groenou, D.L. Willems, C.P.M. Knipscheer, D.J.H. Deeg

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    Objective: This study examined the features of informal end-of-life care of older people living in the community and the association between informal care characteristics and dying at home. Methods: Retrospective data were obtained from interviews and self-administered questionnaires of 56 persons who had been primary caregivers of older relatives in the last three months of their lives. Results: Results showed that informal caregivers of terminally ill older people living in the community provided a considerable amount of personal, household, and management care. Secondary informal caregivers and formal caregivers assisted resident primary caregivers less often than nonresident primary caregivers. Primary caregivers who felt less burdened, who gave personal care more intensively, and/or who were assisted by secondary caregivers, were more likely to provide informal end-of-life care at home until the time of death. Conclusions: Our study showed that informal care at the end of life of older people living in the community is complex, since the care required is considerable and highly varied, and involves assistance from secondary informal caregivers, formal home caregivers as well as institutional care. Burden of informal care is one of the most important factors associated with home death. More attention is needed to help ease the burden on informal caregivers, specifically with regard to resident caregivers and spouses. Since these resident caregivers were disadvantaged in several respects (i.e., health, income, assistance from other carers) compared to nonresident caregivers, interventions by formal caregivers should also be directed towards these persons, enabling them to bear the burden of end-of-life care. © Arnold 2004.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)468-477
    Number of pages10
    JournalPalliative Medicine
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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