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Dying cancer patients' experiences of powerlessness and helplessness
ASIH Långbro Park, Unit for Palliative Medicine and Advanced Medical Home Care, Älvsjö, Sweden.
Department of Oncology and Pathology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholms Sjukhem FoUU, Stockholm, Sweden.
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Äldre - vård - civilsamhälle (ÄVC) . Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences. Östergötlands Läns Landsting, Local Health Care Services in Central Östergötland, Department of Geriatric and Hospital Based Homecare UHL.
2008 (English)In: Supportive Care in Cancer, ISSN 0941-4355, E-ISSN 1433-7339, Vol. 16, no 7, 853-862 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Goals of work

Experiences of powerlessness and helplessness are closely linked to incurable diseases but seldom studied in patients with disseminated cancer. The aim is to explore the perception, experiences and significance of powerlessness and helplessness, to study triggering factors and to make quantifications.

Materials and methods

One hundred three patients, enrolled in four different palliative home-care settings, completed a questionnaire with both Likert-type questions and open-ended questions. The response rate was 58%, and background data was reported as frequencies, whereas the main material was analysed using a qualitative content analysis.

Main results

Impending death, symptoms, loss of control and autonomy, ignorance, isolation and uncertainty constituted the basis for powerlessness and helplessness, but each factor was reinforced by the occurrence of suddenness, high intensity and/or lengthiness. In total, 65% reported definite experiences of powerlessness and helplessness. These feelings also held a deeper meaning, involving aspects such as existential loneliness and hopelessness. They were ultimately caused by an incapacity to control feelings and cope with the situation related to the impending death. The results are discussed in relation to Cassel’s theory of suffering and existential psychology.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Berlin/Heidelberg, 2008. Vol. 16, no 7, 853-862 p.
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-40571DOI: 10.1007/s00520-007-0359-zISI: 000256475100013Local ID: 53498OAI: diva2:261420
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2014-01-13Bibliographically approved

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Milberg, Anna
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Äldre - vård - civilsamhälle (ÄVC) Faculty of Health SciencesDepartment of Geriatric and Hospital Based Homecare UHL
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Supportive Care in Cancer
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