Experiences and needs of relatives of people with dementia in acute hospitals: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies

Melanie Burgstaller*, Hanna Mayer, Cornel Schiess, Susi Saxer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

33 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: To present an in-depth analysis of existing qualitative literature concerning experiences and needs of the relatives of patients with dementia in hospitals. Background: Relatives are an important resource for the care of patients with dementia in hospitals. They provide necessary information about the patient and can support the patient's care. Simultaneously, they are themselves vulnerable, having specific needs and experiences. A number of studies have been conducted that focus on the perspectives of the relatives. The synthesis of qualitative studies contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of recent study findings. Design: A meta-ethnographic synthesis of qualitative research findings was used. Methods: The synthesis process followed six defined steps. We located relevant studies through searching the CINAHL, PubMed and PsycInfo databases and through searching journals and reference lists by hand. A list of metaphors was created and translated into one another. Identified metaphors were synthesised and interpreted as a new whole. Results: Relatives of patients with dementia frequently experience a negative cycle of specific worries, negative feelings and resulting roles and functions in hospital due to negative care experiences. Conclusions: Experiences of relatives are strongly influenced by the attitudes, expertise and communication that they receive from health professionals working in the hospital. The results clearly show how health professionals have the potential to break through the negative cycle and contribute to a more positive feeling about a patient's hospital stay. Relevance to clinical practice: Structured and individually planned involvement of the relatives during the hospital care seems to be a key aspect for improving the experiences for the relatives and the patients with dementia. Collaboration with the relatives needs to be valued and supported by the organisation. Also a professional and defined frame for this area of responsibility needs to be provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-515
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • acute care
  • dementia
  • family
  • hospital care
  • relative
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital/psychology
  • Humans
  • Family/psychology
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Hospitalization
  • Dementia/therapy
  • Metaphor
  • Qualitative Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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