Family conflict at the end-of-life : an examination of the experiences of hospice primary caregivers and hospice professionals

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Boelk, Amy Zlimen

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Guided by an explanatory matrix of family conflict at the end-of-life, the goals of this mixed methods study were to further generate theory regarding family conflict and to provide insights into its correlates and predictors. Sources of data analyzed include quantitative survey responses from 161 hospice family caregivers, 15 in-depth interviews with hospice family caregivers, and 10 interdisciplinary focus groups with hospice professionals. An explanatory matrix is presented that portrays family conflict at the end-of-life as a complex phenomenon influenced by salient contextual variables, conditions, and factors that may contribute to a number of negative outcomes for patients, family members, and professionals. The matrix also provides a beginning understanding of approaches utilized by hospice professionals in their work with families experiencing conflict. Significant bivariate correlations were found between family conflict and family context variables (i.e. prior conflict, length of caregiving, caregiver gender, caregiver age, presence of children in the caregiver’s home, advance planning discussions within family), conditions (i.e. family coming out of the woodwork and patient care needs) and contributing factors (i.e. communication constraints and family asserting control). In the multivariate model, significant predictors of family conflict included prior conflict, caregiver gender, caregiver age, advance planning discussions within family, family coming out of the woodwork, communication constraints, and family asserting control; the model explained 60% of the variance in family conflict. Implications for routine assessment, further examination of interventions to prevent and address conflict, and future research are highlighted.




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