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Attachment figures when death is approaching: a study applying attachment theory to adult patients' and family members' experiences during palliative home care
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division of Nursing Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Region Östergötland, Local Health Care Services in East Östergötland, Department of Advanced Home Care in Norrköping.
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division of Nursing Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Region Östergötland, Local Health Care Services in East Östergötland, Center of Palliative Care. Region Östergötland, Local Health Care Services in East Östergötland, Department of Advanced Home Care in Norrköping.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9606-3238
2017 (English)In: Supportive Care in Cancer, ISSN 0941-4355, E-ISSN 1433-7339, Vol. 25, no 7, p. 2267-2274Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

Attachment theory is currently receiving much attention in relation to how adults cope with severe illness. The study aims were using the experiences of patients and family members to explore attachment figures (a central concept within the theory) during palliative home care.

Methods

Twelve patients and 14 family members were interviewed during ongoing palliative home care. The interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results

Four types of attachment figures were identified: (i) family and friends, (ii) health care practitioners, (iii) pets and (iv) God. Both non-physical and physical contact with the attachment figures facilitated a sense of security. In addition, the patient/family members and their attachment figures were described by some as a “we”, and when one part of the “we” felt insecure, this made the other also feel insecure. The patients’ unstable and progressing illnesses constituted a threat to the patients’ and family members’ sense of security. The availability of the attachment figures made them feel secure, and they could then divert their attention from the patients’ illnesses to other things in everyday life, e.g. socialising with family and friends. Some family members also had to cope with the loss of their own attachment figure, when the patient, who had previously been a source of security for them, was no longer able to offer protection and comfort due to the progression of the illness.

Conclusion

Important aspects of attachment figures in the end-of-life context were identified, and their clinical implications will be discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2017. Vol. 25, no 7, p. 2267-2274
Keywords [en]
Attachment figure; Palliative; Attachment theory; Patient; Family member
National Category
Nursing
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-134896DOI: 10.1007/s00520-017-3634-7ISI: 000402138800029OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-134896DiVA, id: diva2:1077758
Note

Funding agencies: Medical Research Council of Southeast Sweden [FORSS-5775]

Available from: 2017-03-01 Created: 2017-03-01 Last updated: 2018-03-06Bibliographically approved

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Milberg, Anna

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Division of Nursing ScienceFaculty of Medicine and Health SciencesDepartment of Advanced Home Care in NorrköpingCenter of Palliative Care
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CiteExportLink to record
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