CONTEXT: Children with complex chronic conditions (CCCs) have high morbidity and mortality. While these children often receive palliative care services, little is known about parental preparedness for their child's end of life (EOL).
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to elucidate aspects important to preparedness at EOL among bereaved parents of children with CCCs.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, parents of children who received care at Boston Children's Hospital and died between 2006-2015 completed 21 open-response items querying communication, decision-making, and EOL experiences as part of the Survey of Caring for Children with CCCs. Additional demographic data were extracted from the child's medical record. An iterative multi-stage thematic analysis of responses was utilized to identify key contexts, conditions, and themes pertaining to preparedness.
RESULTS: 110/114 parents responded to open-ended items; 63% (n=69) had children with congenital or central nervous system progressive primary conditions for a median of 7.5 years (IQR 0.8-18.1) prior to death. 71% (n=78/110) had palliative care involvement and 65% (n=69/106) completed advance care planning. Parents described preparedness as a complex concept that extended beyond 'readiness' for their child's death. Three domains emerged that contributed to parents' lack of preparedness: (1) chronic illness experiences; (2) pretense of preparedness; and (3) circumstances and emotions surrounding their child's death.
CONCLUSIONS: Most bereaved parents of children with CCCs described feeling unprepared for their child's EOL, despite palliative care and advance care planning, suggesting preparedness is a nuanced concept beyond 'readiness.' More research is needed to identify supportive elements among parents facing their child's EOL.
Aim: Understanding of coping strategies that parents use before the death of their child is crucial, and will enable us to best provide support. The current study aimed to explore parents’ coping strategies, and map these onto an existing theoretical framework.
Methods: Bereaved parents and parents of a child with a life-limiting/threatening condition were interviewed to investigate coping strategies, recruited through Intensive Care Units (2 Neonatal, 2 Paediatric, 1 Paediatric Cardiac), and a children’s hospice. Analysis focused on coping strategies, and mapping these onto the framework.
Results: 24 parents of 20 children were interviewed, and identified Parents use a variety of coping strategies (n=25) such as humour, staying positive, advocating and staying strong for others, expressing emotions and preparing, while also living life to the full, supported by others. The themes were successfully mapped onto the theoretical framework, which focuses on the constructs of approach and avoidance, as well as coping for self and others.
Conclusion: The findings have provided a detailed account of the breadth and depth of coping strategies parents use, including those classed as avoidance. The strategies were successfully mapped onto the theoretical framework. Future research should investigate changes over times, and associations to negative long-term outcomes.
La question de la décision médicale en néonatologie est complexe : en raison de de la place particulière qu’ont les parents vis-à-vis du nouveau-né. Elle présente un dilemme souvent discuté dans la littérature. Ce témoignage vise à donner des arguments en faveur de la position selon laquelle, dans les décisions médicales de fin de vie, ce sont les parents qui doivent: les parents doivent pouvoir, s’ils le souhaitent, porter la responsabilité de la décision.
Context: Cancer is the leading cause of nonaccidental death in childhood, with the death of a child representing a devastating loss for families. Peer support offers a valuable way to support parents' adjustment in bereavement. The By My Side book provides written peer support by sharing bereaved parents' stories to normalize grief experiences and reduce parents' isolation. It is available free of charge.
Objectives: This project evaluated the acceptability, relevance, emotional impact, and usefulness of By My Side.
Design: Bereaved parents and health care professionals (HCPs) provided feedback via a questionnaire. We used descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis of open-ended responses to analyze the data.
Setting/Participants: We mailed a study invitation and evaluation questionnaire to parents and HCPs who ordered a copy of By My Side.
Results: About 24 bereaved parents and seven HCPs provided feedback. Parents thought the book's length (91.7%) and amount of information (83.3%) was just right. About 75% of parents reported that the book made them feel that their reactions to their child's death were normal and/or appropriate. Parents reported positive and negative emotional reactions to the book (e.g., 87.5% felt comforted, 87.5% felt sadness). All parents and HCPs reported that the book provided useful information about grief. About 83.4% of parents and 85.7% of HCPs would recommend it to others.
Conclusion: By My Side was acceptable and useful to bereaved parents and HCPs. Results suggest that peer support in written form may help normalize aspects of grief and comfort parents bereaved by childhood cancer.
Context: It is challenging to provide supportive intensive care to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), giving them every chance for survival, while also trying to minimize suffering for both the infant and parents. Parents who believe their infant is suffering may alter treatment goals based on their perceptions; however, it is unknown how parents come to believe that their infant may be suffering.
Objectives: To examine bereaved parents' perceptions of infant suffering in the NICU.
Methods: Parents completed a qualitative interview exploring their perceptions of the level of suffering that their infant experienced at the end of life. Parents whose infant died in a large Midwestern Level IV regional referral NICU from July 2009 to July 2014 were invited to participate. Thirty mothers and 16 fathers from 31 families (31 of 249) participated in telephone interviews between three months and five years after their infant's death.
Results: Four themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: 1) the presence/absence of suffering, 2) indicators of suffering, 3) temporal components of suffering (trajectory), and 4) influence of perceived suffering on parents, infants, and clinical decision making.
Conclusion: Parents used signs exhibited by infants, as well as information they received from the health care team to form their perceptions of suffering. Perceived suffering followed different trajectories and influenced the decisions that parents made for their infant. Soliciting parent perspectives may lead to improvements in the understanding of infant well-being, particularly suffering, as well as how parents rely on these perceptions to make treatment decisions for their infant.
BACKGROUND: Advanced cancer in young parents (PWAC) can increase dying concerns, the fluctuating thoughts, or feelings, conscious, or unconscious, about an approaching death by a person facing a terminal illness or a family member coping with the impending death of a loved one. However, limited research has been conducted to identify dying concerns in an ill parent as the research has focused on older adults.
OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to identify dying concerns that PWAC are expressing and to understand how these concerns affect measurable outcomes.
METHOD: CINHAL, MEDLINE, PsychARTICLES, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, and Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection were searched. Articles included were samples of PWAC, peer-reviewed, and published within the last 10 years. Elderly or pediatric populations, PWAC with adult children, and early-stage cancer were excluded. The initial search resulted in 1,526 articles, 18 were identified as potentially relevant. Fourteen articles were identified and reviewed.
RESULTS: PWAC expressed concerns for their children (n = 11), concerns for their co-parent (n = 4), and personal concerns (n = 11). Additionally, PWAC have decreased quality of life, have significant emotional and psychological distress, and have increased family dysfunction in relation to their concerns. Samples limit the generalizability of the findings. Majority of the articles consisted of White, upper, middle-class (n = 8) women (n = 7) diagnosed with breast cancer (n = 11) within nuclear families (n = 11).
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Dying concerns are described in the literature from a fairly narrow sample of PWAC. Future research should focus on recruiting participants from diverse backgrounds, genders, diagnosis types, and non-nuclear families. Identifying concerns for the co-parent would also add to the understanding of dying concerns.
Limited research is available on parental decision-making regarding their children's participation in pediatric phase I oncology trials compared with the adult population. The objectives of this review were to describe: (1) the process of parental decision-making in this situation; (2) the optimal communication features physicians need when proposing inclusion in such trials; and (3) the place of the child/adolescent in the assent process. Thirty relevant studies meeting inclusion criteria were identified by searching five computerized databases (PubMed, Web of Science, Cairn, Psychinfo, EM Premium). Parental decision-making is a complex process based on hopeful expectations, multiple family considerations and the child's previous cancer experience. It is highly impacted by the quality of physicians' communication. A therapeutic alliance along with an empathetic attitude and a timely delivery of accurate information is essential. Due weight should be given to the voice of children or adolescents and their optimal level of involvement may be discussed depending on their age and maturity. They should be given age-adapted information in order to empower them to be rightfully and meaningfully involved in early-phase research. This review highlights the main gaps and necessary remedial actions to support an optimal patient care management in this situation. Physicians' training in communication, structured interdisciplinary teamwork and early integration of palliative care are three key challenges which need to be implemented to actively engage in optimization strategies which would improve patient care and family support when offering enrollment in a phase I trial.
BACKGROUND: There is a reliance on voluntary organisations in healthcare. Education is necessary to keep up-to-date with best practice. The authors' aim was to identify education priorities of voluntary organisations that support parents who experience pregnancy/perinatal loss, to inform the development of an education day.
METHOD: A modified Delphi study was undertaken to identify education needs. There were two Delphi rounds, inclusive of free text, where voluntary group experts reflected on responses in order to develop a consensus among the group.
RESULTS: There were 12 responses to Round One and seven responses to Round Two. From a list of 10 subjects, Round One identified 64 sub-topics, which were then determined as essential, desirable or not relevant in Round Two. The final 55 sub-topics were included in the education day.
CONCLUSION: This study identified educational needs of voluntary organisations. A standardised approach was necessary to develop an education day that is responsive to their learning needs.
Traditional Chinese art practices such as brush painting and calligraphy are thought to promote self-development through holistically engaging both physical and mental health. This pilot study investigated the beneficial effects of a community-based self-help group incorporating Chinese art practices as a culturally adapted bereavement intervention. Twenty-six Chinese parents aged over 49 years and who had lost their only child participated in a 20-session Chinese brush painting group over a 6-month period. Ten bereaved parents from the same community who did not participate in the art course but received living support were recruited as a control group. Compared with the control group, the art practice group exhibited a pre-post intervention effect in terms of promoting positive affect and preventing deterioration of prolonged grief symptoms, particularly through the improvement of accessory grief symptoms (e.g., "emotional numbness due to the loss", and "feeling that life is unfulfilling, empty or meaningless after the loss"). No effect was found on negative affect. These findings indicate that a culturally adapted community-based art group may be an effective means of improving grief-related health.
In a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on a ruling of the Texas Supreme Court in Miller v. HCA, George Annas, the NEJM legal analyst, observed, “One bioethical issue is as intractable today as 30 years ago when the topic was first publicly discussed: the extent of parental authority to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment for an extremely premature infant”. The case involved the resuscitation of a 23-week 615 g infant over parental objections. It took years to resolve the case in the legal system. Nearly two decades later, we might inquire whether neonatologists and other critical care practitioners have greater comfort in dealing with the issue of parental objection?
Background: End-of-life (EOL) quality markers in adult oncology include home death and intensive care unit avoidance. Corresponding markers are lacking in pediatric oncology. This study was aimed at describing bereaved parents' perspectives of high-quality EOL care in pediatric oncology.
Methods: this study enrolled a convenience sample of 28 bereaved parents (English- or Spanish-speaking) whose children (0-21 years old) had died of cancer =6 months before. Semistructured interviews were conducted to elicit parental perceptions of medically intense/quality EOL care. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim (30 hours), and study team consensus and content analyses identified themes related to EOL quality markers. Related quotes were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (supported comfort care) to 5 (supported medically aggressive care).
Results: The children died in 1998-2017 at a mean age of 10 years (SD, 5.2 years); 50% had a solid tumor, and 46% were Spanish-speaking. Themes included 1) home death preference (unless home support was inadequate; median score, 1.6), nonaggressive care (median score, 2.4), and continued anticancer therapy (median score, 3.2); 2) programs/policies that could alleviate barriers limiting a family's time with a dying child (visiting restrictions and financial strains); 3) the need to prepare the family for death (eg, what would happen to the child's body), and 4) perceived abandonment.
Conclusions: This is the first qualitative study to identify quality makers for children dying of cancer from bereaved parents' perspectives. Natural death is generally preferred, and quality measures that address barriers to parents' spending time with their children, a lack of preparation for the events surrounding death, and feelings of abandonment are critical. Future studies need to validate these findings and develop targeted interventions.
While great strides have been made in improving childhood mortality, millions of children die each year with significant health-related suffering. More than 98% of these children live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Efforts have been made to increase access to pediatric palliative care (PPC) services to address this suffering in LMICs through policy measures, educational initiatives, and access to essential medicines. However, a core component of high-quality PPC that has been relatively neglected in LMICs is grief and bereavement support for parents after the death of their child. This paper reviews the current literature on parental grief and bereavement in LMICs. This includes describing bereavement research in high-income countries (HICs), including its definition, adverse effect upon parents, and supportive interventions, followed by a review of the literature on health-related grief and bereavement in LMICs, specifically around: perinatal death, infant mortality, infectious disease, interventions used, and perceived need. More research is needed in grief and bereavement of parents in LMICs to provide them with the support they deserve within their specific cultural, social, and religious context. Additionally, these efforts in LMICs will help advance the field of parental grief and bereavement research as a whole.
BACKGROUND: Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children in the United States. It is imperative to optimize measures to support patients and families facing the end of a child's life. This study asked bereaved parents to reflect on their child's end-of-life care to identify which components of decision-making, supportive services, and communication were helpful, not helpful, or lacking.
METHODS: An anonymous survey about end-of-life experiences was sent to families of children treated at a single institution who died of a malignancy between 2010 and 2017.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight surveys were returned for a 30.8% response rate. Most of the bereaved parents (61%) reported a desire for shared decision-making; this was described by 52% of families at the end of their child's life. There was a statistically significant association between how well death went and whether the parental perception of actual decision-making aligned with desired decision-making (P = .002). Families did not utilize many of the supportive services that are available including psychology and psychiatry (only 22% used). Respondents felt that additional services would have been helpful.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care providers should strive to participate in decision-making models that align with the preferences of the patient and family and provide excellent communication. Additional resources to support families following the death of a child should be identified for families or developed and funded if a gap in available services is identified.
CONTEXT: Racial and ethnic disparities in end-of-life care are well documented among adults with advanced cancer.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the extent to which communication and care differ by race and ethnicity among children with advanced cancer.
METHODS: We conducted a prospective cohort study at 9 pediatric cancer centers enrolling 95 parents (42% racial/ethnic minorities) of children with poor prognosis cancer (relapsed/refractory high risk neuroblastoma). Parents were surveyed about whether prognosis was discussed; likelihood of cure; intent of current treatment; and primary goal of care. Medical records were used to identify higher intensity medical care since the most recent recurrence. Logistic regression evaluated differences between white non-Hispanic and minority (black, Hispanic, Asian/other race) parents.
RESULTS: 26% of parents recognized the child's low likelihood of cure. Minority parents were less likely to recognize the poor prognosis (OR .19, 95%CI .06-.63, P=.006) and the fact that current treatment was unlikely to offer cure (OR .07, 95%CI .02-.27, P<.0001). Children of minority parents were more likely to experience higher intensity medical care (OR 3.01, 95%CI 1.29-7.02, P=.01). After adjustment for understanding of prognosis, race/ethnicity was no longer associated with higher intensity medical care (aOR 2.14, 95%CI .84-5.46, P=.11), although power to detect an association was limited.
CONCLUSION: Parental understanding of prognosis is limited across racial and ethnic groups; racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. Perhaps as a result, minority children experience higher rates of high intensity medical care. Work to improve prognostic understanding should include focused work to meet needs of minority populations.
Background: Adolescents with brain stem dysfunction may undergo many invasive treatments, and parents are often faced with making the decision to withdraw treatment. However, in the face of their child's death, the spiritual practices of parents dealing with end-of-life decision-making remain under investigated.
Purpose: This study explores the spiritual practices in parents making end-of-life decisions for adolescents on life support with brain stem dysfunction.
Method: A descriptive phenomenological study was conducted through in-depth interviews with three parents of two adolescents in Taiwan. Data were analysed using Colaizzi's seven-step protocol.
Results: Three main themes emerged: (1) faith during decision-making, (2) struggles during decision-making, (3) transformation during decision-making. The findings indicate that "transforming the nature of hope" is the essence of the experience.
Conclusion: Family-centred care, gaining insight into parental spiritual practices, and developing culturally-appropriate care are recommended.
PURPOSE: Perinatal and neonatal palliative care guidelines recommend the provision of photographs and other mementos as an element of care for parents bereaved by neonatal loss. However, little is known about parents' perceptions of such bereavement interventions. This study explored the significance of memory-making for bereaved parents and the impact of memory-making on parents' experience of loss following neonatal loss.
DESIGN AND METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 bereaved parents. A grounded theory approach informed by Corbin and Strauss was used to underpin data sampling, data collection and data analysis. A constant comparative approach was used to engage in open, axial and selective coding to distil parents' stories into categories supporting a core concept.
RESULTS: "Creating evidence" emerged as a key theme in the grounded theory of memory-making in bereavement care for parents following neonatal loss. Creating evidence involved taking photographs, creating mementos, as well as involving friends and family during the baby's time in the Neonatal Unit.
CONCLUSIONS: Creating evidence affirmed the life of the baby and the role of the parents. Creating evidence was a significant element of memory-making that had a positive impact on parents' experience of bereavement.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Parents should be supported to create evidence of their baby's life, through taking photos, creating mementos, and involving others in their baby's care. Such interventions provide affirmation of the baby's life and of the individual's role as a parent.
Alonso was a 10-year-old boy with a recurrent, re-fractory brain tumor whose disease progressed through multiple therapies over many years. When no additional cancer-directed options remained, Alonso was admitted tothe hospital for symptom management as he approached the end of his life. Although Alonso was unresponsive and posturing, his family continued to hope desperately for a miracle. As they kept vigil around the bedside of his frail body, praying and waiting, they gradually began to notice—and then fixate on—how the sharp angle of his bones protruded more with each passing day.
This paper explores how young people who are living with a parent who is dying talk about the future. Drawing on a qualitative, interview study, I argue that young people are able to move imaginatively beyond the death of a parent, and in doing so, to maintain a sense of biographical continuity. While thinking about the future, most were able to generate an alternative to the ‘harm story’ typically associated with parental loss. Furthermore, the facility to engage with parental absence in the present enabled young people to make sense of living with dying, and gave meaning to their imagined futures. These findings suggest that young people's narratives of the future may act as a symbolic resource to draw on, albeit one requiring adequate material and social resources to construct. The paper extends the notion of continuing bonds derived from post-bereavement accounts to suggest that relational experiences of the dead begin prior to bereavement, and may facilitate everyday living in anticipation of significant loss. Enabling young people to imaginatively explore the future may support them in getting by when they are living in these difficult family circumstances.
Aim: To identify and assess the quality of decision aids that align the decision, values and information provided for parents making end-of-life or palliative care decisions for children with life-threatening conditions.
Methods: Six databases and the grey literature were searched in December 2018. Two reviewers independently reviewed database citations, and one reviewed grey literature citations. Citation chaining via Scopus was conducted. Quality was assessed using IPDAS Collaboration Criteria.
Results: After reviewing 18 671 database citations and 10 988 grey literature citations, 18 citations describing 11 decision aids remained. Decision aids targeted premature infants, children requiring airway management, children with cancer and children with scoliosis. Three aids underwent testing beyond initial development. Quality scores averaged 27 of 50 points.
Conclusions: There are few high-quality decision aids available for use and a lack evidence of widespread clinical use. Additional research is needed to support systematic development and the use of decision aids with families.
Background: In 2016, over 6.6 million children died globally, and 245 children died in Singapore. Chronic illnesses are prevalent causes of child mortality around the world. Despite growing research that examines the lived experience of parents bereaved by their child’s chronic life-threatening illness, there is no such study within the Asian context.
Methods: To bridge this knowledge gap, meaning-oriented, strength-focused interviews were conducted with 25 parental units (i.e. 6 couples, 13 lone mothers, 4 lone fathers, and 2 primary parental figures) who lost their child to chronic life-threatening illness in Singapore (N = 31), including those of Chinese (n = 17), Malay (n = 10) and Indian ethnicities (n = 4), between August 2017 and April 2018.
Results: Data analysis adhering to the grounded theory approach revealed 7 themes and 25 sub-themes that were organized into a Trauma-to-Transformation Model of Parental Bereavement. This model shows the major milestones in participants’ lived experience of their child’s chronic life-threatening illness and death, starting from the diagnosis of their child’s chronic life-threatening illness and the subsequent emotional turmoil (Theme 1), the mourning of their child’s death and the losses which accompanied the death (Theme 3) and participants’ experience of posttraumatic growth through reflection of their journey of caregiving and child loss (Theme 5). The model further describes the deliberate behaviors or ‘rituals’ that helped participants to regain power over their lives (Theme 2), sustain an intimate bond with their child beyond death (Theme 4), and transcend their loss by deriving positive outcomes from their experience (Theme 6). Finally, the model denotes that the lived experiences and well-being of participants were embedded within the health-and-social-care ecosystem, and in turn impacted by it (Theme 7).
Conclusion: These themes and their corresponding sub-themes are discussed, with recommendations for enhancing culturally sensitive support services for grieving Asian parents around the globe.