Differential Family Experience of Palliative Sedation Therapy in Specialized Palliative or Critical Care Units

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Context: No study has examined the varying family experience of palliative sedation therapy (PST) for terminally ill patients in different settings. Objectives: To examine and compare family concerns about PST use and its effect on the grief suffered by terminally ill patients’ families in palliative care units (PCUs) or intensive care units (ICUs). Methods: A total of 154 family members of such patients were recruited in Taiwan, of whom 143 completed the study, with 81 from the PCU and 62 from the ICU. Data were collected on their concerns regarding PST during recruitment. Grief levels were assessed at three days and one month after the patient's death with the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief. Results: Families’ major concern about sedated patients in the PCU was that “there might be other ways to relieve symptoms” (90.2%), whereas families of ICU sedated patients gave the highest ratings to “feeling they still had something more to do” (93.55%), and “the patient's sleeping condition was not dignified” (93.55%). Family members recruited from the ICU tended to experience more grief than those from the PCU (P = 0.005 at Day 3 and < 0.001 at Month 1). PST use predicted higher levels of grief in family members recruited from the PCU (P < 0.001 at Day 3 and Month 1). Conclusion: Family experiences with the use of PST in terminally ill patients varied in different settings. Supportive care should address family concerns about PST use, and regular attention should be paid to the grief of individuals at higher risk.

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