OBJECTIVES: To explore perceptions, experiences and expectations with respect to palliative care of patients with severe mental illness (SMI) and an incurable, life-limiting chronic illness.
METHODS: Face-to-face semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 patients (10 of them living in a mental healthcare institution) with severe mental and physical health issues in the Netherlands. A semistructured interview guide was used to elicit perceptions of, experiences with and expectations regarding palliative care. Data were analysed using inductive content analysis.
RESULTS: Analysis of the data revealed eight categories: perceptions on health and health issues, coping with illness and symptoms, experiences with and wishes for current healthcare, contact with relatives and coresidents, experiences with end of life of relatives and coresidents, willingness to discuss end of life and death, wishes and expectations regarding one's own end of life and practical aspects relating to matters after death. These categories were clustered into two separate themes: current situation and anticipation of end of life. Interviewees with SMI appeared not accustomed to communicate about end-of-life issues, death and dying due to their life-threatening illness. They tended to discuss only their current situation and, after further exploration of the researcher, the terminal phase of life. They seemed not engaged in their future palliative care planning.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings of this study highlight inadequacies in advance care planning for patients with SMI. Results suggest using values, current and near wishes, and needs as a starting point for establishing a gradual discussion concerning goals and preferences for future medical and mental treatment and care.