Poster Presentation COSA-IPOS Joint Scientific Meeting 2012

Features of gender and grief reported in the experiences of family care-givers six months after a family member’s death from ovarian cancer. (#534)

E A Lobb 1 2 3 , P N Butow 4 5 , N McGowan 4 5 , J Mowll 1 , M A Price 4 5
  1. Calvary Health Care Sydney, Kogarah, NSW, Australia
  2. Cunningham Centre for Palliative Care, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia
  3. School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame Sydney, Darlinghurst, NSW, Australia
  4. Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence Based Decision-Making, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
  5. School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Aims: This paper reports the grief experience of male and female family care-givers of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, six months after the death. Findings are drawn from a study seeking to identify predictors of poorer health outcomes in palliative care family care-givers and to identify those most at risk. Methods: Thirty-two bereaved care-givers participating in the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study–Quality of Life (AOCS-QOL) completed the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) and qualitative telephone interview at 6 months post bereavement, reaching data saturation. The interview explored the concept of ‘a good death’, exploring on the whole end of life period, the death itself and current grief and coping. Data were analysed using the constant comparison method based on Grounded Theory. Results: Caregiver ICG scores indicate a trend towards high levels of caregiver grief, particularly in male partners, although the sample was too small for formal statistical testing. Overall, the bereaved caregivers’ experience of grief indicated persistence of grief reactions, shock and distress, as well as acceptance for some. Qualitatively, grief was related to meanings attached to the death experience, including preparation for the death and the circumstances of surrounding the death event. Participants’ responses indicated a perceived need to conform to expected grief patterns and anxieties about grief persisting in the future. Male partners in particular commonly talked of their emotional loneliness, their own physical health deterioration, as well as the use of strategies such as contemplating re-partnering, travelling and ‘keeping busy’ to counteract their grief, with varying reported success. Counselling was not widely accessed and was on the whole not felt as needed. Conclusion: Given the intensity of grief related issues reported at six months post-bereavement, there is a need to further assess carers’ grief longitudinally and explore, sometimes pejoratively viewed, coping strategies such as re-partnering.