Mothers and fathers are severely challenged when providing care for their terminally ill child at end of life. Caregiving needs have been studied predominantly in mothers. Differences in caregiving needs between mothers and fathers during their child’s end of life have not, however, been explored so far. This knowledge is of importance to best meet individual parental needs in paediatric end-of-life care.
Secondary analysis of a quantitative survey on parental needs during their child’s last 4 weeks of life, collected in the Swiss multicentre “Paediatric End-of-Life Care Needs” (PELICAN) study. Caregiving needs of mothers and fathers (parental dyad) who had lost a child due to a cardiological, neurological or oncological disease or during the neonatal period in the years 2011–2012 were retrospectively assessed using a questionnaire representing six evidence-based quality domains of paediatric palliative and end-of-life care.
Seventy-eight parental dyads were included in this analysis. Differences between mothers and fathers were mostly found around needs to be supported as a family. In all, 28 out of 34 needs-related questionnaire items were scored higher by mothers than by fathers, indicating higher importance for that need to be met. The results indicate that these differences might relate to different caregiving roles and gender-specific coping strategies.
To best meet parental needs in paediatric end-of-life care, particular attention should be paid to both mothers and fathers and their specific caregiving roles, as differences in these roles might influence their needs in this exceptional situation. Therefore, healthcare professionals should identify how parental dyads mutually navigate care for their sick child to best meet their needs in support. Additionally, mothers and fathers should be supported in their individual coping strategies.