Support Needs for Bhutanese Family Members Taking Care of Loved Ones Diagnosed with Advanced Illness

Publication Name

Journal of Palliative Care


Background: Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients diagnosed with an advanced illness and their families. Family members, who often play a central role caring for their very ill loved ones, have significant support needs. In Bhutan, where palliative care is an emerging concept, the needs of family members have not been assessed thus far. Objective: This study explored the support needs of Bhutanese family members caring for their loved ones diagnosed with advanced illness. Design: This is a cross-sectional descriptive study. Setting/Subjects: Study sites included the national referral hospital, the two regional referral hospitals, four district hospitals and Basic Health Units (Grade I and II), spread across Bhutan. Participants were recruited through purposeful and snowball sampling strategies. Data were collected from May to August 2019. The Carer Support Needs Assessment Tools (CSNAT) was used. Results: Despite unforeseen challenges, 46 family members out of 60 identified (77%) participated in the survey. Twenty-three (50%) cared for relatives with advanced cancer and the remainder for loved ones with non-malignant conditions. This study found high support needs among both groups. The priority needs included understanding their relative's illness, managing symptoms, providing personal care, financial aspects, dealing with their own feelings and emotions and knowing what to expect in the future. Conclusion: This study will help inform the World Health Organization recommended public health approach to palliative care modified to the Bhutanese context for enabling a cost-effective intervention to improve the quality of lives of patients and families.

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