Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Patients and carers receiving home-based palliative care report unmet needs related to communication and support for non-physical suffering

Ventura AD, Burney S, Brooker J, et al.  Home-based palliative care: A systematic literature review of the self-reported unmet needs of patients and carers Palliative Medicine. 2014;28(5):391-402.

Review question

What are the self-reported unmet needs of home-based palliative care patients and their caregivers?


More people are now surviving into old age, which brings additional burden of disease, additional burden on their caregivers, and the need for specialized health services, including palliative care, towards the end of life.

Home-based palliative care is becoming the dominant approach for providing palliative services to those at the end of life, offering benefits to patients and their family caregivers such as the prospect of dying at home in a comfortable setting.

Little is known about whether patients and their caregivers feel that they have unmet needs when receiving home-based palliative care services.

How the review was done

A number of electronic databases were searched covering 1975 to 2012, and studies were included if they were original research, reported self-perceived unmet needs, and focused on patients and their caregivers who are currently receiving palliative-care support.

Searches identified 5,213 studies, and after reviewing the results, the authors included 15 studies.

The authors stated that there were no specific sources of funding that supported this review.

What the researchers found

The relief of physical suffering is generally managed well with home-based palliative-care services.

Patients and their caregivers felt that they have a range of unmet needs including communication, spiritual, psychosocial, practical, informational and respite care, as well as those associated with social isolation and loss of autonomy.

The need for open communication was the most frequently identified unmet need among patients and their caregivers.


While physical suffering is managed well with home-based palliative-care services, other types of non-physical suffering need more attention.

Patients and their caregivers may need to request more open communication from healthcare professionals, and more support for other types of suffering that are currently not addressed in home-based palliative care.

This summary is based on a review that was determined to be of medium methodological quality based on an assessment using the AMSTAR tool.

Related Web Resources

  • Several non-invasive treatments work for neck pain

    Institute for Work & Health
    Educational videos, exercise, and neck mobilization were more beneficial for treating neck pain or whip lash than ultrasound or electrical stimulation. Laser therapy, exercise and massage or acupuncture may help with chronic pain. Hard or soft collars did not work.
  • Headaches: Should I Take Medicine to Prevent Migraines?

    This patient decision aid helps people considering taking medicine every day to prevent migraines decide on whether or not to use preventive treatment by comparing the benefits, risks and side effects of both options.
  • Managing Pain From a Broken Hip: A Guide for Adults and Their Caregivers.

    This patient decision aid helps older adults (more than 50 years old) who is in a hospital because of a hip fracture decide on methods of managing pain. It outlines options such as using acetaminophen, opioid analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other treatments and compares the benefits and side effects associated with each option
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.

Support for the Portal is largely provided by the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative. AGE-WELL is a contributing partner. Help us to continue to provide direct and easy access to evidence-based information on health and social conditions to help you stay healthy, active and engaged as you grow older. Donate Today.

© 2012 - 2020 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use