Background: Although most patients express a preference to die at home, many (over 30 percent) still die in hospital. This study's purpose was to explore the experience of hospital death from the perspective of patients' family members. Methods: Interviews were conducted with family members of patients who had died at hospitals affiliated with a large tertiary referral centre in the United States. Content analysis was used to analyze findings. Findings: We interviewed 30 family members by phone. Themes were arranged by time frame: Before death, time of death, and after death. Conclusion: Families do not interpret clinical cues leading up to death in the same way healthcare providers do; families need clear and direct explanations from providers. Clinicians should assess patient and family understandings of prognosis and communicate clearly and directly. Family members value being with their loved one at the time of death, and they value spending time with the body after death; this should be facilitated in clinical practice.
- Qualitative research
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