Crucial need for more support for loved ones of cancer patients in the final phase of life

Crucial need for more support for loved ones of cancer patients in the final phase of life
Crucial need for more support for loved ones of cancer patients in the final phase of life

New PhD research by Laurien Ham pays attention to the often underexposed group surrounding cancer patients: their loved ones. The research, conducted at Tilburg University in collaboration with the Integrated Cancer Center of the Netherlands (IKNL), highlights the emotional, social and existential challenges that relatives of patients with incurable cancer face in the last year of their loved one’s life.

The results of Ham’s research show that the emotional well-being of loved ones decreases significantly during the final phase of life. Factors such as the patient’s sleep problems and the patient’s receipt of potentially inappropriate care can have a negative impact on the emotional well-being of loved ones. On the other hand, more continuity of care, including a fixed point of contact for both patient and loved one, can contribute to a less significant decline in well-being. A lack of sufficient support from healthcare providers, combined with increasing pressure on informal caregivers due to social developments, exacerbates the problem. Ham’s study shows that there is an urgent need for more knowledge and support for loved ones, specifically aimed at recognizing and dealing with the physical and emotional complaints of their loved one.

Support for patient and loved one

Ham emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to healthcare, where healthcare providers support not only the patient but also their loved ones. In her dissertation she calls for broad recognition of the role that both formal care providers and the social environment of loved ones play in providing support. ‘In addition to good care for the patient in the final phase of life, it is essential that their loved ones receive support. Care providers have a role there, but the people around loved ones and informal caregivers are also important in this support,” says Ham. By involving loved ones in proactive care planning, recording their wishes and needs and pointing out available support options, we can work together to improve the well-being of loved ones during this challenging period.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Crucial support loved cancer patients final phase life


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