Family support is widely regarded as an important factor in the palliative care journey. The distinct needs of fathers are particularly well documented in research of children with long-term conditions and this naturally extends to paediatric palliative care where differing views and needs of males versus females has been highlighted. However, the male viewpoint is often minimal or absent in paediatric palliative care research. Therefore the needs of fathers are often unrecognised and remain unmet.
This paper describes a project which explores the value and meaning of a group which aims to provide psychosocial support to fathers of life-limited and life-threatened children.
The ‘Dads group’ was set up in 2006 in recognition that provision specifically for fathers, locally and nationally, was sparse. Initial activities centred on sporting events and this is still a feature of the group. However, the group has evolved to be so much more, in terms participant numbers, activities and the depth of support it offers. The findings of the evaluation served two purposes, i.e. to gain a better understanding of the value and meaning of the group to its members and to inform future service provision. This paper will focus on the value and meaning of the group.
The main themes emerging from the data were:
Shared and sharing experience
Challenging gender roles
Isolation and loneliness
One father said;
”I’d be in the wilderness without it”(D8)
The final statement above, more than any other, underlines the importance of this gender specific group to its participants. This evaluative project, which studied a purposive sample via a focus group, provides evidence which can be used to underpin the development of similar groups throughout paediatric palliative care in hospital, hospice or the wider community.
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