Meaningful Communication Before Death, but Not Present at the Time of Death Itself, is Associated With Better Outcomes on Measures of Depression and Complicated Grief Among Bereaved Family Members of Cancer Patients

Hiroyuki Otani, Saran Yoshida, Tatsuya Morita, Maho Aoyama, Yoshiyuki Kizawa, Yasuo Shima, Satoru Tsuneto, Mitsunori Miyashita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Context Few studies have explored the clinical significance of the family's presence or absence at the moment of a patient's death and meaningful communication (saying “goodbye”) in terms of post-bereavement outcomes. Objectives To explore the potential association between the family's depression/complicated grief and their presence at the moment of a patient's death and the patient's communication with the family. Methods A nationwide questionnaire survey was conducted on 965 family members of cancer patients who had died at palliative care units. Results More than 90% of family members wished to have been present at the moment of death (agree: 40%, n = 217; strongly agree: 51%, n = 280); 79% (n = 393) thereof were present. Families' presence at death was not significantly associated with the occurrence of depression and complicated grief, but the dying patient's ability to say “goodbye” to the family beforehand was (depression: adjusted odds rate, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.26–0.69 adjusted P = 0.001; complicated grief: adjusted odds rate, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.29–0.94 adjusted P = 0.009). Conclusion Many families wished to be present at the moment of the patient's death; however, meaningful communication (saying “goodbye”) between the patient and family members, and not their presence or absence itself, was associated with better outcomes on measures of depression or complicated grief. Health care professionals could consider promoting both mutual communication (relating to preparation for death) between family members and patients before imminent death, as well as the family's presence at the moment of death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-279
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Volume54
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sep

Keywords

  • Family's presence
  • cancer patients
  • communication
  • death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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