The Carer’s Initiation: A qualitative study of the experience of family care of the dying

  • Jenny Newbury

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Health (DHealth)


The aim of this study was to explore the experience of carers of family members dying at home with particular reference to their expectations and preparedness for the dying process. It was a qualitative, longitudinal study which initially followed a grounded theory approach. However, as a theatrical metaphor became apparent from the data the approach changed to dramaturgical analysis. Face to face semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifteen carers before and after the death of their family member. Carers were found to be performing a leading role in home palliative care but they experienced a universal sense of uncertainty and of being unrehearsed for their role in the dying process. They were reluctant to seek information to give them a script for their performance because it was painful and difficult to contemplate their family member dying. They needed the direction of health professionals and the support of paid carers but had variable experiences of these services. Carers’ performance types were also variable but tended to be towards the combative or the pragmatic end of a continuum. Their experience was illuminated through the dramaturgical metaphor of a play called the Carer’s Initiation. The climax of the play was the death of the family member followed by the finale in which they watch over the body until it is removed and they finally face a future without their family member. The carer’s initiation highlighted policy and practice implications for improving the preparation and support of carers for the dying process.
Date of Award1 Jul 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAllan Kellehear (Supervisor)


  • informal carers
  • dying process
  • palliative care

Cite this