DOI: 10.1177/26323524231189517 ISSN: 2632-3524

‘It’s not just about me’: a qualitative study of couples’ narratives about home death when one of the partners is dying of cancer

Margareta Aurén-Møkleby, Lisbeth Thoresen, Anne Marit Mengshoel, Kari N. Solbrække, Gunvor Aasbø
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


Most cancer patients state a preference for home death. Care and support from primary caregivers are important to enable dying at home. A preference for home death from the perspective of couples has rarely been investigated.


To explore how a preference for home death is understood and enacted in couples where one of the partners is dying of cancer.


A qualitative interview research design with a narrative approach was used.


Five couples participated in dyad interviews. During the analysis, two interviews that particularly illuminated couples’ shared and individual views were chosen as the primary cases.


The interviews show, in two highly different ways, how a preference for home death is a significant relational matter. The interviews are presented as two cases: ‘Struggles in an Unknown Terrain’ and ‘Reliance at the Kitchen Table’. They show how a preference for home death can be understood and enacted as a struggle or as reliance based on the couple’s shared biography and the partner’s ability to care for the partner during the end-of-life phase. The analysis highlighted the negotiations that underpin a preference for home death. In these negotiations, the couples drew on idealised understandings of home death. These ideas were supported by cultural values related to autonomy and independence as well as participation and citizenship. Thus, in the negotiations about being cared for and caring, legitimate dependency and the maintenance of a reciprocal relationship were balanced. The presence of healthcare professionals and medical devices in the home had to be balanced with the need to maintain a sense of self and an authentic home.


A relational perspective on a preference for home death made us attentive to couples’ negotiations. These negotiations give couples the opportunity to re-evaluate and reconfirm individual and mutual needs in the end-of-life phase.

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