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Relatives in end-of-life care – part 2: a theory for enabling safety


  • Joakim Öhlén PhD, RNT,

  • Birgitta Andershed PhD, RNT,

  • Christina Berg BScN, RNT,

  • Ingvar Frid PhD, RNT,

  • Carl-Axel Palm MScN, RNT,

  • Britt-Marie Ternestedt PhD, RNT,

  • Kerstin Segesten PhD, RNT

Joakim Öhlén
Department of Nursing
Karolinska Institute 23 300
SE-141 83 Huddinge
Telephone: +46-8-524-88615


Aim.  To develop a goal-oriented praxis theory for enabling safety for relatives when an adult or older patient is close to end-of-life.

Background.  This is the second part of a project focusing on the situation and needs of relatives in end-of-life care. Our interpretation of the existing corpus of knowledge pertaining to the needs of close relatives in this situation showed the significance of relatives’ need for safety.

Method.  The theory was developed step-by-step, through triangulation of critical review of empirical research in the field, our own clinical experiences from end-of-life care, renewed literature searches and theoretical reasoning.

Theory.  The foundation for the theory is taken from the ethical intention of the philosopher Paul Ricoeur. From this, the theory focuses on relatives in the context of end-of-life care with the goal of enabling safety. This is proposed by four aphorisms functioning as safety enablers and these are directed towards the professional's approach and attitude, the relative's concern for the patient, the specific situation for the relative and the patient's end-of-life period as a period in the life of the relative.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Implications for end-of-life practice are considered and include aspects for promotion of just institutions in end-of-life care, the significance of negotiated partnership in end-of-life care, enabling safety for relatives living in existential and practical uncertainty in connection with end-of-life care and diversity of relatives’ preferences as they live through this particular period.