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Parental life-limiting illness: What do we tell the children?

Fearnley, Rachel; Boland, Jason W.


Rachel Fearnley

Jason W. Boland


Being diagnosed with and having a life-limiting illness is a stressful experience which is compounded when the patient has dependent children. An important aspect of the patient’s psychosocial care should include recognition that their children are also likely to experience severe stress because of the illness. However, children’s needs are often overlooked during the illness. These needs include information about the illness. Health care professionals have a significant role in supporting patients to communicate with their children. This study aims to increase our understanding of children’s experiences when a parent has a life-limiting illness by exploring bereaved children’s experiences of the support they received when their parent had a life-limiting illness, and professionals’ perspectives of the support offered to children. 7 children (aged between 9 and 24), and 16 health care professionals were interviewed about communication during parental illness. Children report needing open, clear and age appropriate conversations with parents and health care professionals to help them begin to obtain some meaning from the situation. The importance of communication is discussed, with particular reference to the role health care professionals have in supporting these conversations.


Fearnley, R., & Boland, J. W. (2019). Parental life-limiting illness: What do we tell the children?. Healthcare, 7(1), 47.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 19, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 20, 2019
Publication Date Mar 20, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 25, 2019
Journal Healthcare
Print ISSN 2227-9032
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 1
Pages 47
Keywords Life-limiting illness; End of life; Death; Communication; Information; Children; Parents; Health care professionals
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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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