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J Palliat Med. 2006 Oct;9(5):1164-71.

Preparing caregivers for the death of a loved one: a theoretical framework and suggestions for future research.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Caring for a terminally ill loved one and the death of that person are two of the most stressful human experiences. Recent research suggests that a substantial number of caregivers are unprepared for the death and that these caregivers may be at greater risk of psychological distress. The literature on preparedness and mental health, however, is in its infancy. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to summarize the literature in order to stimulate discussion and research on preparedness. It is our view that preparedness for the death of a loved one is an important contributor to caregiver well-being and bereavement outcomes and that more work in this area is needed in order to improve the care provided to caregivers of seriously or terminally ill patients. We briefly review the literature on preparedness, present a theoretical model delineating the relationships between preparedness, caregiver-health care provider communication, and caregiver well-being, and provide suggestions for future research.

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