Family members who care for terminally ill patients at home can be helped by nurses throughout the course of the illness and particularly after the patient's death, according to Penn State nursing researchers.
Penrod and colleagues compared their own theory of caregiving through the end of life to a theory specifically about bereavement by G. A. Bonnano, a clinical psychologist and pioneer in the field of bereavement. That theory suggests grief oscillates, and eventually the grieving caregiver will "return to a state of equilibrium."
Penrod breaks her theory into four stages -- sensing disruption, challenging normal, building a new normal and reinventing normal. The comparisons focus on the last stage, "reinventing normal," which is traditionally known as the bereavement period.
The process of restructuring their lives after their loved one has died is a cyclical one for the caregivers, the researchers theorize. They believe that support from nurses is important to help the family caregiver grieve.
By comparing these two theories, Penrod and colleagues found significant conceptual similarities, which helps validate both theories. The researchers reported their results to attendees at the Council for the Advancement of Nursing 2012 State of the Science Congress today (Sept. 15) in Washington, D.C.