Title. Short- and long-term impact of critical illness on relatives: literature review.
Aim. This paper is a report of a literature review undertaken to identify the short- and long-term impact of critical illness on relatives.
Background. Patients in intensive care can experience physical and psychological consequences, and their relatives may also experience such effects. Although it is recognized that relatives have specific needs, it is not clear whether these needs are always met and whether further support is required, particularly after intensive care.
Data sources. The following databases were searched for the period 1950–2007: Medline, British Nursing Index and Archive, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and EMB Reviews – Cochrane Central Register of Clinical Trials.
Search methods. Search terms focused on adult relatives of critically ill adult patients during and after intensive care. Recurrent topics were categorized to structure the review, i.e. ‘relatives needs’, ‘meeting relatives’ needs’, ‘interventions’, ‘satisfaction’, ‘psychological outcomes’ and ‘coping’.
Results. Studies have mainly identified relatives’ immediate needs using the Critical Care Family Needs Inventory. There are few studies of interventions to meet relatives’ needs and the short- and long-term effects of critical illness on relatives.
Conclusion. Despite widespread use of the Critical Care Family Needs Inventory, factors such as local or cultural differences may influence relatives’ needs. Relatives may also have unidentified needs, and these needs should be explored. Limited research has been carried out into interventions to meet relatives’ needs and the effects of critical illness on their well-being, yet some relatives may experience negative psychological consequences far beyond the acute phase of the illness.