Unfinished Business in Families of Terminally Ill With Cancer Patients

Ryoko Yamashita, Harue Arao, Ayumi Takao, Eiko Masutani, Tatsuya Morita, Yasuo Shima, Yoshiyuki Kizawa, Satoru Tsuneto, Maho Aoyama, Mitsunori Miyashita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Context Unfinished business often causes psychological issues after bereavement. Providing care for families of terminally ill patients with cancer to prevent unfinished business is important. Objectives To clarify the prevalence and types of unfinished business in families of end-of-life patients with cancer admitted to palliative care units (PCUs), explore depression and grief associated with unfinished business, and explore the factors affecting unfinished business. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional, anonymous, self-report questionnaire survey with 967 bereaved families of patients with cancer admitted to PCUs. The questionnaire assessed the presence or the absence of unfinished business, content of unfinished business, depression, grief, process of preparedness, condition of the family and patient, and the degree of involvement of health care professionals. Results Questionnaires were sent to 967 families, and 73.0% responded. In total, 26.0% of families had some unfinished business, with improvement of the patient-family relationship being a common type of unfinished business. Families with unfinished business had significantly higher depression and grief scores after bereavement compared with those without. Factors that influenced the presence or the absence of unfinished business were preparedness for the patient's death (P = 0.001), discussion between the patient and family about the disease trajectory and way to spend daily life (P < 0.001), good patient-family relationship (P = 0.011), and family and health care professionals considering together the appropriate timing to accomplish the family's wishes (P = 0.021). Conclusion Many families have unfinished business. Health care professionals should coordinate the appropriate timing for what the family wishes to do, with consideration of family dynamics, including the family's preparedness, communication pattern, and relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-869
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec


  • End-of-life care
  • bereavement
  • cancer
  • family
  • palliative care
  • unfinished business

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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