Palliative care clients' and caregivers' notion of fear and their strategies for overcoming it

Joy Penman, Bronwyn Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This paper aims to clarify our understanding of fear and explore the strategies employed by people with life-limiting conditions and their caregivers in addressing the emotion of fear as they journey through the dying process. The role of fear is discussed: different kinds of fear, the tangible and intangible measures by which people manage their fear, and the ways of transcending fear. Method: The findings of a larger research project funded by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing are drawn upon. In-depth interviews were conducted with clients and caregivers relating to the psychosocial and emotional issues in palliative care. Secondary analysis was utilized to examine the perceptions of fear in this cohort. Results: While there were many other findings, the results highlighted in this paper relate to the notion of fear among interview participants. Interview data showed that people with life-limiting conditions and their caregivers had different types of fear and employed a variety of strategies to deal with fear. Four themes emerged embodying these strategies: calling on their own resilience and inner resources, maintaining human relationships, gaining the ability to keep one step ahead in the dying process, and engaging in spirituality and religion. Significance of results: The implications of the findings for healthcare professionals are highlighted. The recognition of emotions is embedded in palliative care; healthcare professionals should view the management of emotions as an integral part of professional practice. Addressing fear is essential because unresolved fear can impinge on one's ability to cope. Our paper brings together different perspectives on fear and how vulnerable individuals attempt to cope with it while at the same time providing a view of the challenges confronting healthcare professionals who are engaged with them and committed to optimizing health outcomes for palliative care clients and their caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-785
Number of pages9
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregivers
  • Coping strategies
  • Fear
  • Palliative care clients

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