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Lived experiences of parents caring for a child with a life-limiting condition in Australia: A qualitative study


Each month, one article from Palliative Medicine, the EAPC's official research journal, is selected as 'Editor's choice' and the author invited to contribute a short post to the EAPC blog explaining the background to the full article in the journal. This month's 'Editor's choice' is described below with access to the free PDF version.  (You can also read the blog post version here)


Background: Experiential studies in paediatric palliative care are needed to enable an ongoing international agenda which supports the development of responsive family supports.

Aim: To provide an in-depth exploration of the prevalent lived experiences of parents who are currently providing care for a child with a life-limiting condition in Australia.

Design: Cross-sectional, prospective, qualitative study guided by an advisory group and reported according to the consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative studies. Transcripts were subjected to a thematic analysis, underpinned by an interpretative phenomenological framework.

Setting/participants: Purposively sampled parents (n = 14) recruited from a statewide paediatric hospice who self-identified as a ‘primary caregiver’ for one or more children and/or adolescents (⩽18 years) with a life-limiting condition.

Results: Four key themes represented the prevalent experiences of parents: (1) trapped inside the house, (2) the protector, (3) living with the shadow and (4) travelling a different pathway. They describe parents’ physical and social isolation, exclusion from the workforce, pervasive grief and associated impacts to their health and well-being. Limited professional and diminished social supports resulted in full ownership of care responsibility. Yet, parents embraced their role as ‘protector’, reporting acquired meaning and purpose.

Conclusion: This study builds upon the growing body of evidence available in paediatric palliative care internationally. The key themes highlight the substantial demand for both physical and emotional support beyond what is currently offered and call for the implementation of carefully planned support services and other societal initiatives which seek to alleviate the broad health impacts to caregivers.


Paediatric palliative care, life-limiting condition, qualitative, caregiver, experiences

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This document can be downloaded as pdf files for personal academic use. Anyone wishing to use it for commercial purposes or needing to make multiple copies must contact the publisher of Palliative Medicine - SAGE Publications Ltd, Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP, United Kingdom.
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Written By: Anna Collins, Nicole Hennessy-Anderson, Sarah Hosking, Jenny Hynson, Cheryl Remedios and Kristina Thomas
Published: 09-12-2016

Lived experiences of parents caring for a child with a life-limiting condition in Australia: A qualitative study
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