The experiences of family members witnessing the diminishing drinking of a dying relative: An adapted meta-narrative literature review

Annie Pettifer, Katherine Froggatt, Sean Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Addressing the concerns of family members is an important aspect of palliative and end-of-life care. One aspect that commonly causes family caregivers concern is the decline of patients’ oral fluid intake in the last few days of life. Aim: To map the narratives in which family members’ experiences of witnessing the diminishing drinking of a dying relative have been researched, review the findings within each narrative and consider directions for future research. Design: An adapted meta-narrative review approach. Data Sources: The Cumulative Index of Nursing and Applied Health Literature, Medline, PsycINFO, Psycharticles and Scopus databases were searched for relevant research published between January 1982 and December 2017. Quality was assessed using the Quality Assessment and Review Instrument. Results: A total of 22 papers met the inclusion criteria. No study focused specifically on the experiences of family members when witnessing the diminishing drinking of dying relatives. However, research about diminishing drinking was identified within studies broadly focusing on cancer cachexia, clinical decision-making about hydration and/or nutrition and support in a hospice context. The research indicates that family members’ experiences of diminishing drinking vary with their views about the significance of drinking, dying well and their expectations of themselves and healthcare professionals. Conclusion: While some understanding of the topic can be inferred from research in related areas, there is a paucity of information specifically about family members’ experiences when witnessing the diminishing drinking of a dying relative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1146-1157
Number of pages12
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date1 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

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  • Palliative care
  • caregiver
  • dehydration
  • drinking
  • family
  • hydration
  • meta-narrative review
  • terminal care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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