The Lived Experience of Hope in Family Caregivers Caring for a Terminally Ill Loved One

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Caring for a terminally ill loved one has been described as work that is exhausting and difficult. One factor that influences well-being for caregivers is hope. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the question: What is the meaning of hope for the family caregiver in the context of end-of-life care and what nursing actions influence hope? Data collection through open-ended dialogic engagement occurred at two time points to capture the essence of the experience for family caregivers throughout the end-of-life experience. Participants (n = 6) were recruited within a rural, Midwestern hospice program in the United States. The lived experience of hope for family caregivers in this population emerged as four interconnecting themes: engaging, strengthening, and maintaining connections; easing of self; finding meaning in the situation; and acceptance. Hope for family caregivers assists navigation through the caregiving experience, finding positive meaning within the situation, and moving toward an acceptance of the situation and healing. Hope is supported through nursing actions of relational and informational support. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are in a prime position to offer support through a variety of interventions and actions, which are aimed at positively influencing hope in this population.