Hospice caregivers' Experiences with pain management: "i'm not a doctor, and i don't know if i helped her go faster or slower"

Debra Parker Oliver, Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles, Karla Washington, Robin L. Kruse, David L. Albright, Paula K. Baldwin, Amy Boxer, George Demiris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Context: Those caring for their loved ones in hospice experience tremendous stress, being faced with numerous decisions as they work to manage the pain experienced by their loved one. Although hospice care teams create pain management strategies, it is the role of the caregiver to implement these plans. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to further understand the hospice caregiver experience relating to pain management. Methods: Semistructured interviews with 146 caregivers provided data for the study. Responses to seven questions asking for a ranking of end-of-life pain management indicated a less than ideal experience. Available narratives from 38 caregivers were analyzed for themes related to further understanding of the concerns. Results: Five themes were identified in the data including difficulty with administration of pain medicines, concerns about side effects of medications, insecurity with pain assessment, frustrations with communication among health care team members, and memories of unrelieved pain. Conclusion: These findings should raise concern among hospice professionals, whose commitment is to the management of pain, including emotional pain, with a focus on both the patient and the family as a unit of care. These data clearly suggest that hospice providers have an opportunity to be sensitive to perceptions held by caregivers regarding pain management. Effective planning for pain control must incorporate the values and beliefs not only of each patient but also of the family caregiver.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)846-858
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Hospice
  • caregivers
  • pain


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