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Supporting parental caregivers of children living with life limiting or life threatening illnesses: A Delphi study



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The purpose of this study was to increase awareness and understanding of parental caregivers’ current support needs in order to provide direction in the development of a theory-based hope intervention. The intervention is intended to improve psychosocial and bereavement support for parental caregivers of children with life limiting (LLI) or life threatening illnesses (LTI). The number of parents who have children living with a LLI/LTI is increasing. The impact of these illnesses on parents is significant as they travel alongside their child and experience emotional, physical, and spiritual upheaval. Current empirical research reveals that this journey challenges parents’ understanding of life, faith, and certainty in the future. Many studies demonstrated that parents’ needs are not consistently met and parents often reported the need for psychosocial support. Hope has been found to be an important psychosocial concept for parents and has been shown to provide support when facing difficult circumstances. For this reason, the concept of hope provided the conceptual framework for this research. In order to develop a theory-based psychosocial hope intervention for parental caregivers, a large scale privately funded project that included a metasynthesis of current research, a Delphi survey, and focus groups was conducted. All three components of this project were developed by a research team of two doctorate nurse researchers, one pediatric palliative care specialist, one pediatric oncologist, one community member, and a graduate student. The study presented here is based on the Delphi survey only and serves as the graduate student’s master of nursing thesis. A Delphi survey consisting of three rounds of questions and controlled feedback to experts was employed. Sixty-eight experts were recruited including parental caregivers who have children diagnosed with LLIs or LTIs and those who care for them such as community members, nurses, social workers, and physicians. Based on Bally et al.’s (2013) grounded theory of Keeping Hope Possible, the survey focused on four subprocesses that were identified as essential for parental hope. Experts suggested strategies or activities for each subprocess. Answers were summarized and ranked in order of highest to lowest according to feasibility and effectiveness. The final round revealed a consensus and eight major themes emerged: organize basic needs; connect with others; prioritize self-care; obtain meaningful information; take things day by day; advocate for parental participation; manifest positivity; and celebrate milestones. The survey took place via email to allow easy access to experts and parents globally. This study identified needs of parents of children with LLIs or LTIs in order to develop a theory-based psychosocial hope intervention. Results have the potential to provide direction for a newly developing pediatric palliative care program in Western Canada.



Parental Caregivers, Life limiting illness, Life threatening illness, Support Intervention, Hope, Pediatric Nursing, Pediatric Palliative Care, Family Nursing



Master of Nursing (M.N.)






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