Introduction Current UK health policy aims to increase the numbers of people dying at home, but it relies on family members being available to take responsibility for caring. The ‘Unpacking the home’ study elicited the views and experiences of family carers who have cared for a dying family member at home.
Aims and Methods This paper examines a key element of carers' responsibilities: the administration of medications. Using a multidisciplinary social science approach, qualitative interviews were undertaken with 59 family carers in the north and south of England. The interviews were analysed thematically, and a subset of 30 interviews also underwent narrative analysis.
Results Although some support with medications is provided by healthcare staff in the community, family carers take primary responsibility for drug administration and they identified a number of important issues. They reported anxiety about giving correct and timely dosages, and concerns about keeping their loved ones comfortable without overdosing or shortening their lives. For some, medications (especially opioids) have symbolic significance, and increasing analgesia signifies that the patient is approaching death.
Conclusions Family carers require adequate information about drugs and their effects, and support in administering medications for a dying person. There is potentially a greater role for pharmacists in managing medications at the end of life, which would be of benefit to doctors and nurses as well as dying patients and their carers.
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