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Parental Life-Limiting Illness: What Do We Tell the Children?

Journal title
Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland)
Publication year
Fearnley, R.; Boland, J. W.

Being diagnosed with and having a life-limiting illness is a stressful experience which is compounded when the patient has dependent children. An important aspect of the patient’s psychosocial care should include recognition that their children are also likely to experience severe stress because of the illness. However, children’s needs are often overlooked during the illness. These needs include information about the illness. Health care professionals have a significant role in supporting patients to communicate with their children. This study aims to increase our understanding of children’s experiences when a parent has a life-limiting illness by exploring bereaved children’s experiences of the support they received when their parent had a life-limiting illness, and professionals’ perspectives of the support offered to children. 7 children (aged between 9 and 24), and 16 health care professionals were interviewed about communication during parental illness. Children report needing open, clear and age appropriate conversations with parents and health care professionals to help them begin to obtain some meaning from the situation. The importance of communication is discussed, with particular reference to the role health care professionals have in supporting these conversations.

Research abstracts