Hospice providers' key approaches to support informal caregivers in managing medications for patients in private residences

Denys T. Lau*, Brian Joyce, Marla L. Clayman, Sydney Dy, Linda Ehrlich-Jones, Linda Emanuel, Joshua Hauser, Judith Paice, Joseph W. Shega

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Context: Managing and administering medications to relieve pain and symptoms are common, important responsibilities for informal caregivers of patients receiving end-of-life care at home. However, little is known about how hospice providers prepare and support caregivers with medication-related tasks. Objectives: This qualitative study explores the key approaches that hospice providers use to facilitate medication management for caregivers. Methods: Semistructured, open-ended interviews were conducted with 22 providers (14 nurses, four physicians, and four social workers) from four hospice organizations around an urban setting in the midwestern U.S. Results: Based on the interviews, the following five key approaches emerged, constituting how the hospice team collectively helped caregivers manage medications: 1) establishing trust; 2) providing information; 3) promoting self-confidence; 4) offering relief (e.g., provided in-home medication assistance, mobilized supportive resources, and simplified prescriptions); and 5) assessing understanding and performance. Each hospice discipline used multiple approaches. Nurses emphasized tailoring information to individual caregivers and patients, providing in-home assistance to help relieve caregivers, and assessing caregivers' understanding and performance of medication management during home visits. Physicians simplified medication prescriptions to alleviate burden and reassured caregivers using their perceived medical authority. Social workers facilitated medication management by providing emotional support to promote self-confidence and mobilizing resources in caregivers' support networks and the community at large. Conclusion: Hospice nurses, physicians, and social workers identified distinct, yet overlapping, approaches in aiding caregivers with medication management. These findings emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork among hospice providers. Future research should investigate how common, standardized, effective, and efficient these approaches are in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1060-1071
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Hospice home services
  • family caregivers
  • pain management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • General Nursing


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