22 August 2023
Talking about a serious illness, dying, death and grief can be hard. But when it comes to end-of-life decisions, knowing what supports are available can make all the difference.
Now, a new University of South Australia research project is exploring ways to support rural people in palliative care* to have important conversations, find key supports and live better for longer.
The ‘Living well as long as we can’ project hopes to improve awareness and understanding about end-of-life planning and care, so that people can make active and informed end-of-life choices.
Conducted in partnership with Palliative Care SA, the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University, the project is part of a broader five-year State-wide program funded by The Hospital Research Foundation.
Lead rural researcher, UniSA’s Associate Professor Kate Gunn, says the project involves working with local community leaders to find ways to highlight how rural communities can support each other at end of life, effectively navigate systems and make their existing strengths more visible.
“Community members are very well placed to support each other with the numerous challenges that can present at end of life,” Assoc Prof Gunn says.
“Rural people are especially good at this- they often have to be when formal services are limited.”
“However, we are really excited to be working with rural community leaders and Palliative Care SA on this project, to explore novel ways to encourage conversations and enhance this further.”
“By working together, we can facilitate meaningful conversations about palliative care and encourage community collaboration and support in some of the most challenging of circumstances.”
The project will encompass four rural areas in South Australia – Mt Gambier, Port Lincoln, Berri and Whyalla. It will begin by seeking input from each of these communities about what they already know about palliative care and end of life issues, via an online survey.
CEO of Palliative Care SA, Shyla Mills, says palliative care is everybody’s business.
“Dying is a normal part of life. Whether they're a patient, a family member, a caregiver, friend, colleague, or a healthcare provider, we will all know someone who is experiencing a serious illness, dying, grief or caregiving,” Mills says.
“People usually want to help, but too often they don’t know how to. This project will work with community leaders to provide guidance in both asking and accepting help at the end stage of life.
“This initiative is based on the premise that dying is a social part of life with a medical component, and not vice versa. So, working with rural communities to increase their networks of care around people at the end stage of life is vital.”
Researchers are now looking for community members to share their experiences. People living in Mt Gambier, Port Lincoln, Berri or Whyalla, are invited to complete a brief survey about what they already know about end-of-life experiences: bit.ly/ruralpallcaresurvey or scan the QR code below.
Notes to editors:
* Palliative care is person and family-centred care for someone with a life-limiting illness and aims to optimise the quality of life. It can be delivered by a wide range of health and community providers and can be delivered at any stage of illness.
Media contact: Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: [email protected]
UniSA Researcher: Assoc Prof Kate Gunn E: [email protected]
Palliative care partner - for local interviews: Shyla Mills E: [email protected]