Public, patient and carers’ views on palliative and end-of-life care in India

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Abstract

Aim

To systematically review the existing evidence on the Indian public, patient and carers’ perspectives on palliative and end-of-life care.

Background

With a growing population of terminally ill people across the world, there is also an increasing awareness among international health policy makers of the need to improve the quality of life for terminally ill patients. Understanding service users’ (patients, family and public) perspectives is crucial in developing and sustaining successful community-centred palliative nursing policies and service models especially in countries like India with diverse population.

Methods

An integrative review was performed on five databases, using hand searches of key journals and reference citation tracking for empirical studies published in English from 1990 to 2015. A thematic analysis framework was used to analyse and identify key themes.

Results

Analysis of the six eligible studies revealed five themes. Themes describe how social, economic, cultural, religious, spiritual and traditional factors influenced the palliative and end-of-life care perspectives and experiences among Indians. They also illustrated preferences relating to place of care, as well as benefits and challenges of family caregiving during the last days of life.

Conclusions

Although we found minimal evidence on user perspectives, nurses need to aware of those unique components of context-specific palliative and end-of-life care practices in India – socioeconomic, cultural and religious factors – on their nursing encounters. Nurses need to advocate same in policy development to enable accessibility and utility of palliative and end-of-life care services, which are scant in India.

Implications for nursing and health policy

Nurses can be central in gathering the contextual evidence that advocate users’ perspectives to inform further studies and national palliative care policies in India. Emerging policies in nursing education need to focus on integrating family-centred palliative and end-of-life care within curricula, whereas nursing practice may promote nurse-led community models to address the patchy palliative and end-of-life service provision in India.

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