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Previous research showed that people with young-onset dementia and their family caregivers spontaneously addressed the topic of euthanasia when talking about the broader topic of advance care planning. A better understanding of what people address and why may provide innovative insights to inform the evolving physician assisted dying legislation worldwide. This study aimed to identify what people with young-onset dementia and their family caregivers spontaneously expressed regarding (communication about) euthanasia when discussing the topic of advance care planning.
A secondary qualitative analysis was conducted, through the method of constant comparative analysis on semi-structured interviews. We included 10 people with young-onset dementia and 25 family caregivers in Flanders, Belgium.
Respondents described similar contexts for discussions about euthanasia: the topic arose at several key moments, usually with informal caregivers, and was motivated by patients considering the impact of disease progression both for themselves, thereby mainly wanting to avoid decline and maintain dignity, and their loved ones. Family caregivers paid considerable attention to the legality of euthanasia in dementia, specifically with regard to cognitive capacity, and elaborated on the difficulties and emotional impact of discussing euthanasia.
Considerations of people with young-onset dementia towards euthanasia appeared rooted in personal unbearable suffering and in expected interpersonal and societal consequences of their condition. Negative social framing of young-onset dementia might contribute to the livelihood of euthanasia in respondents’ thoughts. The incorporation of euthanasia as a legal end-of-life option was mirrored in its incorporation in patients’ and family caregivers’ thought framework.
Family caregivers play a vital role in care for people with serious illness. Reliable population-level information on family caregiving is scarce. We describe the socio-demographic and family caregiving characteristics and experiences of family caregivers of people with serious illness in the adult population.
We performed a secondary analysis of the cross-sectional population-based 19th Social-Cultural Changes survey. A random sample of 2,581 Dutch-speaking people aged 18–95, living in Flanders or Brussels, were contacted for participation in the survey between March and July 2014 using a stratified two-step sample. Differences between groups are described using Pearson chi-square tests and analysis of variance.
Response rate was 58.7% (1,515/2,581). Over a 12-month period, 7.6% of respondents provided family care for someone with a serious illness (n = 114). They were most often aged 55–74 (36.0%), women (57.9%), worked full-time (42.3%); 31.8% provided at least 10 h of family care each week. Family caregivers of people with serious illness, compared with family caregivers of people with other conditions, provided more medical and nursing care (33.3% vs. 22.5%, p = 0.027), and experienced a higher burden of family caregiving (p = 0.038) but a similarly high meaningfulness of family caregiving.
Significance of results
A considerable part of the adult working population provides family care for someone with serious illness. While family caregiving for someone with serious illness shows similarities with family caregiving for people with other conditions in terms of caregiver characteristics and the impact of caregiving on work-life balance and the meaning derived from it, it is also associated with increased burden.
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