"the way i am treated is as if i am under my mother's care": Qualitative study of patients' experiences of receiving hospice care services in South Africa

Konstantina Vasileiou, Paula Smith, Ashraf Kagee

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5 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Research on the patient experience of receiving palliative care across a number of settings is increasing, but the majority of these investigations are situated within the context of developed countries. There is limited research from resource-limited countries, especially with regard to patients with cancer who receive hospice care. The present study explored the lived experience of attending hospice care facilities in South Africa to develop a bottom-up understanding from the perspectives of patients themselves. Methods: A qualitative cross-sectional study was designed to examine how patients experienced receiving hospice care We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with thirteen, purposively selected patients living with terminal cancer and receiving in-patient or day care palliative services from a hospice organisation in South Africa. We used inductive thematic analysis to analyse the data. Results: We identified three themes that reflected a process of transformation that was experienced by participants during their engagement with the hospice services. The first theme describes participants' initial reluctance to be linked to the hospice as a result of the stereotypic perceptions of hospice as being associated with death and dying. The second theme presents the perceived positive impact on patients' physical and psychosocial wellbeing which resulted from the highly valued interactions with staff and other patients as well as patients' engagement with creative activities. The final theme delineates the transformation of hospice into a second 'family' and 'home' and the restoration of an identity that expands beyond the 'sick' role. Conclusions: Receiving hospice care that sensitively attends to patients' psychosocial and physical needs helps people to re-create a sense of homeliness within the world, re-orient themselves toward a meaningful life and re-configure their relationship with self. Patient experience of receiving hospice care in South Africa does not appear dissimilar to that reported by patients in resource-rich countries, suggesting underlying commonalities. There is a need for raising awareness and educating the public about what palliative care can offer to those in need. Public health campaigns could help reduce the stigma attached to palliative care, deflect negative perceptions, and communicate the benefits for patients, families and communities in culturally sensitive ways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Cancer
  • Hospice
  • Interviews
  • Palliative care
  • Patients
  • Qualitative study
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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