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End-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs) have been reported throughout history. We aimed to synthesize the research literature on ELDVs to determine the proportions of patients, bereaved families, healthcare professionals, and volunteers reporting ELDVs; ELDV content, timing, and interpretation; and any evidence-based approaches to ELDV-related care.
A systematic review protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD4021282929). CINAHL, Medline, Embase, Emcare, and APA PsycInfo were searched for peer-reviewed English language articles reporting qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods studies that explored reports of ELDVs by patients, bereaved families, healthcare professionals, or volunteers. Synthesis used both meta-analysis and a narrative approach.
Of 2,045 papers identified by searches, 22 were included, describing 18 studies in a variety of settings. Meta-analyses indicated that 77% (95% confidence intervals [CIs] 69–84%) of patients (n = 119) reported an ELDV compared with 32% (95% CIs 21–44%) of bereaved relatives (n = 2,444) and that 80% (95% CIs 59–94%) of healthcare professionals (n = 171) reported either witnessing or being told of an ELDV in the preceding 5 years. Studies of volunteers reported 34% (95% CIs 20–48%) (n = 45) either witnessing or being told of an ELDV over their entire period of service, with 49% of volunteers (95% CIs 33–64%) (n = 39) reporting events occurring in the preceding year. ELDVs reported by patients, bereaved families, healthcare professionals, and volunteers were perceived as being a source of comfort. Healthcare professionals and volunteers expressed a need for further education on how to support patients experiencing ELDVs and their families.
Significance of results
ELDVs are experienced by the majority of dying patients and need consideration in delivering holistic end-of-life care. Little if any research has been conducted in acute care facilities.
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