Nav: Home

Tension around autonomy increases family conflict at end of life

October 03, 2019

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Conflict within families can be stressful and confusing, and it can lead to feelings of sadness. It also is incredibly common and in many cases, a necessary part of family dynamics. New research from the University of Missouri highlights how caregivers can better manage family conflict as they deal with the approaching death of a loved one.

Jacquelyn Benson, assistant professor of human development and family science, found that autonomy is a central tension in caregiving at the end of life. She suggests that several strategies, including communication, formal support and emotional self-care, can be used by caregivers to address family conflict.

"Conflict is stressful, we all know that," Benson said. "However, it also is necessary and can lead to positive change. I hope these findings will inspire alternative ways to think about family conflict when it comes to end-of-life decision-making."

Benson and her team analyzed data originally provided by caregiving participants of a clinical trial. They specifically looked at interviews from caregivers who were actively caring for a loved one in hospice care to study how the caregivers discussed conflict as it related to caregiving.

The central theme that emerged from the data was that of autonomy. Throughout the data, Benson found that struggles over who had control was a common feature in most of the conflicts and tensions the caregivers discussed.

One caregiver described this tension in simple terms, saying that her father's insistence on remaining independent was "a burden." When her father's struggle to remain autonomous lessened, her caregiving burden eased. In another example, a caregiver caring for her spouse felt her husband's brothers did not appreciate the severity of his health condition and the level of caregiving that he required, which led to tension when caregiving decisions were made.

"Our findings highlight how family conflict is experienced and managed by caregivers," Benson said. "Avoiding conflict altogether is not the answer because it's an unrealistic goal. Instead, caregivers should have conversations with hospice staff about ways they can improve their caregiving experience by communicating their needs and concerns with the person they are caring for and other family members."

For example, although hospice staff and nurses might not witness overt conflict related to caregiving, they might witness caregiver reactions that are symptomatic of family conflict. Those observations can lead to conversations that will minimize psychological distress and minimize conflict.

"Accounts of family conflict in home care: the central role of autonomy for informal caregiver resilience," was published in the Journal of Family Nursing. Other authors on the study were Debra Parker Oliver, and Karla Washington from MU and George Demiris from the University of Pennsylvania. This research was supported in part by the National Institute of Nursing.
-end-


University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Caregivers Articles:

Do ER caregivers' on-the-job emotions affect patient care?
Doctors and nurses in emergency departments at four academic centers and four community hospitals in the Northeast reported a wide range of emotions triggered by patients, hospital resources and societal factors, according to a qualitative study led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst social psychologist.
Self-help groups empower caregivers of children with disabilities
Caregivers in low-income settings will be able to respond to the challenges of bringing up children with disabilities, thanks to a new model created by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).
When caregivers need care
People who regularly care for or assist a family member or friend with a health problem or disability are more likely to neglect their own health, particularly by not having insurance or putting off necessary health services due to cost, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.
Symptoms of depression in caregivers may predict future health problems
Caregivers of stroke survivors who show signs of depression may have a higher risk of suffering their own health challenges down the line, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.
Caregivers of people with dementia are losing sleep
Caregivers of people with dementia lose between 2.5 to 3.5 hours of sleep weekly due to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep -- a negative for themselves and potentially for those in their care, according to Baylor University research published in JAMA Network Open.
Teaching happiness to dementia caregivers reduces their depression, anxiety
Caring for family members with dementia -- which is on the rise in the US -- causes significant emotional and physical stress that increases caregivers' risk of depression, anxiety and death.
Study: Mindfulness may help decrease stress in caregivers of veterans
Caregivers of veterans who engaged in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy found it relieved stress, anxiety and worry, according to a new study led by University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo.
Caring for an older adult with cancer comes with emotional challenges for caregivers, too
Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers' emotional health or to their quality of life.
Caregivers in Canada need more support
It's time to strengthen support for the 28 percent of people who provide care for an aging family member, friend or neighbor in Canada, argues an editorial in CMAJ.
Older caregivers report worse well-being when providing minimal assistance
Providing less than an hour of help to an elderly person can take a surprising emotional toll on older caregivers, says a University of Michigan researcher.
More Caregivers News and Caregivers Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.