How initial policy responses to COVID-19 contributed to shaping dying at home preferences and care provision: key informant perspectives from Canada

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Cherba, Maria
Funk, Laura
Scott, Erin
Salman, Bora
Rounce, Andrea
Mackenzie, Corey S
Stajduhar, Kelli
Krawczyk, Marian
Cohen, S. Robin
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Objectives In response to COVID-19’s first wave, provincial governments rapidly implemented several public health directives, including isolation measures and care facility visitor restrictions, which profoundly affected healthcare delivery at the end of life and dying experiences and perceptions. The objective of this study was to identify implications of early policy changes for dying at home. Methods Analysis of interviews with 29 key informants with expertise in the policy and practice context of dying at home and care for those dying at home was conducted as part of a larger mixed-methods study on dying at home in Canada. Results Initial pandemic policy responses, especially visitor restrictions and limitations to home care services, shaped dying at home in relation to three themes: (1) increasing preferences and demand for, yet constrained system ability to support dying at home; (2) reinforcing and illuminating systemic reliance on and need for family/friend caregivers and community organizations, while constraining their abilities to help people die at home; and (3) illuminating challenges in developing and implementing policy changes during a pandemic, including equity-related implications. Conclusion This study contributes to broader understanding of the multifaceted impacts of COVID-19 policy responses in various areas within Canadian healthcare systems. Implications for healthcare delivery and policy development include (1) recognizing the role of family/friend caregivers and community organizations in end-of-life care, (2) recognizing health inequities at the end of life, and (3) considering possible changes in future end-of-life preferences and public attitudes about dying at home and responsibility for end-of-life care.
Canada, COVID-19, End-of-life care, Palliative care, Public policy, Thematic analysis
BMC Health Services Research. 2023 Nov 30;23(1):1330