Caregiving Youth Knowledge and Perceptions of Parental End-of-Life Wishes in Huntington’s Diseaseedit
Knowledge of patient end-of-life (EOL) wishes and discussions are vital for family caregivers, including children and youth who may be in caregiving roles (“young carers” or “caregiving youth”). However, little is known about caregiving youth awareness and perceptions of EOL issues. This study sought to explore caregiving youth knowledge of EOL wishes and their willingness for EOL discussions. Face-to-face interviews with 40 caregiving youth ages 10–20, who have a parent with Huntington’s disease (HD), provided information about their knowledge of the presence of their ill parent’s living will (LW) and durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC), and willingness to talk with the parent about EOL choices and possibility of death. Less than one-half of the participants were aware of the parent’s LW or DPAHC. Content analysis revealed themes in reasons to want or not want EOL discussion with the parent: respect for the parent’s wishes, caregiving youths’ opinion not valued, and avoidance of EOL issues. Themes also included reasons to not want discussion with the parent about possibility of death: protecting the parent, parent in denial, parent not ready, and realization of the terminal outcome. Findings suggest HD patients and their caregiving youth need support for open EOL discussions, and could benefit from educational programs and support groups around EOL issues.