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Understanding the Meaning of Social Well-Being at the End of Life

Maryjo Prince-Paul
ONF 2008, 35(3), 365-371 DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.365-371

Purpose/Objectives: To advance understanding of the social well-being domain, a dimension of quality of life, from the perspective of dying individuals.

Research Approach: Qualitative, hermeneutic, and phenomenologic.

Setting: Private residences in a community setting.

Participants: 8 terminally ill adult patients with cancer, aged 35-75, enrolled in hospice care.

Methodologic Approach: In-depth, semistructured, tape-recorded, and transcribed interviews were analyzed using the Giorgi method.

Main Research Variables: Social well-being and quality of life at the end of life.

Findings: Six themes emerged that described the meaning of close personal relationships at the end of life: meaning of relationships with family, friends, and coworkers; meaning of relationships with God or a higher power; loss and gains of role function; love; gratitude; and lessons on living.

Conclusions: Patients who were terminally ill with advanced cancer expressed the importance of close personal relationships at the end of life and the need to communicate their importance through love and gratitude. All participants believed that personal relationships were strengthened by the end-of-life experience.

Interpretation: Nurses can support terminally ill patients by understanding the importance of social relationships at the end of life. The relationships may be enhanced when nurses raise patients' conscious awareness of the relationships and encourage them to express their importance.

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