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Elina Haavisto: Family members’ role in the hospital care of terminally ill patients

Published on 14.6.2022
Tampere University
Elina Haavisto is Professor of Health Sciences at the Faculty of Social Sciences. Her main areas of research are palliative care and specifically family members’ involvement in patient care.

“Family members’ involvement in palliative patient care refers, on the one hand, to family members’ involvement in hospital care and, on the other hand, to the psychosocial support the family members receive from the staff who take care of the patient,” says Haavisto.

Family members act as important emotional supporters for the patient, in addition to which they can also participate in the physical care of the patient and care-related decision-making. Family members’ needs for support are usually informative and emotional by nature, but can also be physical, spiritual, financial and related to care services.

“Family members’ involvement always requires the patient's consent and the family members’ willingness to be involved, the competence and positive attitude of healthcare professionals, guidance of the family members and an individualistic environment that enables their physical presence.”

Involvement is typically rare, although studies show that it is important and meaningful not only for the patient, but also for the family members and staff. Among other things, family members' involvement improves the patient’s wellbeing and the family members’ ability to cope. It also teaches family members the skills they need in possible home care and encourages them to take care of the patient at home.

“The research provides information that is important and necessary to improve the quality of palliative care, patient safety and patients’ quality of life, in addition to increasing family members’ involvement as they are going through a difficult time in life. The studies also involve developing various concrete tools that serve healthcare practice, such as assessment indicators and digital environments for the further training of healthcare professionals and for communicating with family members.”

Elina Haavisto's contact information