Working with family care-givers in a
palliative care setting
Working with family care-givers can be a rewarding and challenging process, particularly within the field of palliative care. Despite a rapid increase in the general care-giving literature based in the gerontological field over the last 20 years, there remains much we do not know or understand about the perceived needs and support for this group of people (George 1994). In this chapter, I will begin to address some of the issues that are emerging in the literature as being particularly relevant to the family care-giver in palliative or end-of-life care. By reflecting on individual family care-givers' perception of their role, it is anticipated that health and social care professionals will be able to consider their own interactions and support of this group of people in a more systematic way.
The chapter is divided into three sections. First, I focus on the current UK context and social policy relating to family care-givers. Next, I consider the development and understanding of the family care-giver role, relating this to a research study conducted with family care-givers in a palliative care setting. Finally, I consider the implications of this research for practice.
One of the difficulties of having some clarity about working with family care-givers is the myriad of terms and definitions that are used within the literature to define this group and the activities they undertake. In this chapter, I will use the term 'family care-givers' to refer to the person or persons who have primary responsibility for the day-to-day care of the person with incurable disease or who is nearing the end of life. They may or may not recognize themselves as a carer or family care-giver, but nevertheless will often be involved in providing emotional, physical, social and/or spiritual support to the ill person. Care-givers will generally be participating in caring