The Use of Descriptive Words and Metaphor in Patient and Carer Experience of Palliative Day Care: Secondary Analysis of a Qualitative Study

J. Richardson*, 1, J. Grose2
1 Faculty of Health and Social Work, University of Plymouth, UK
2 Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth, UK

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© Richardson and Grose; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Health and Social Work, 19 Portland Villas, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth Devon PL4 8AA, UK; Tel: 01752 586535; E-mail:



An independent evaluation of changes to the delivery of Palliative Day Services was carried out during 2006-2007 using interviews with service users. The analysis found that the words and metaphors employed by users of services emphasized their emotional response to the changes, and helped to explain their depth of feeling about their experiences, warranting further investigation.


To conduct a secondary analysis on interview data collected for the Day Services Evaluation Study in order to understand how patients and their carers use descriptive words and metaphor when talking about their experiences of palliative day services.


Interview transcripts from 40 patients and 8 carers were subjected to secondary thematic analysis. These were read individually and coded where metaphor or descriptive words had been used to emphasize the effect of the illness and the experiences of the Day Services.


Examples of the metaphorical expressions and words used described the service as a ‘secure rock in a changing world’; transition was felt as ‘sadness’, a ‘betrayal’, with feelings that the changes were ‘bitter and twisted;’ and left ‘a black hole’. Post transition the mood had changed to acceptance ‘When life throws lemons at you, you make lemonade’.


The metaphors and descriptive words used act as what we describe as ‘emotional intensifiers’ which provide a measure of the impact of the effect of illness, the effect of the day services on users and carers and the intensity of feeling during the time of transition.