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Research of things that matter most for people who are dying

UC researching into things that matter most for people who are dying

September 19, 2013

The views of hospice patients and their families are in danger of being lost, a University of Canterbury (UC) postgraduate student researcher says.

If palliative care is to be holistic, New Zealand needs to find out from patients and families what they believe is important, UC masters students Denise van Aalst says. Hospice New Zealand comprises 34 hospice or palliative care services around the country.

``The hospice movement was set up to be a voice for the voiceless. Those needing palliative care needed someone to speak for them and ensure they received the care they needed and deserved.

``My research will give a voice to people receiving palliative care and it allows those working with the dying to hear what their patients and families say is important to them.

``I interviewed hospice patients and family members to find out what they believed were the most important factors in palliative care. My research involved people who work in a hospice, the environment, philosophy and holistic care.

``Patients and family members were consistent in describing the value of the people who work in a hospice and the little things that are part of everyday care.

``All staff were valued and their attitude and approach was seen as caring and supportive and assisted in maintaining dignity for dying people.

``The willingness of staff to go the extra mile for patients and for families was also noted and appreciated. Staff who would take the time to do little extra things for patients, such as bringing in a special food, taking time to sit with them, acknowledging them as a special individual made a positive impact that allowed people to open up and trust more easily.

``The fact that the care clearly extended to family members as well as patients, a recognised essential in palliative care was greatly appreciated and also had a positive impact on both patients and on family members.

``Tangible little things such as crocheted rugs and handmade quilts on beds, flowers on meal trays helped to create pleasant surroundings that were a part of feeling safe and cared for.

``My research will enable those caring for the dying in any context to use the information shared by individuals as guidance to enhance the care they offer to a dying person so that their final days may be more tolerable, even perhaps pleasurable: to help them live until they die,’’ says van Aalst, whose study was supervised by UC palliative care programme convenor Kate Reid.

ENDS

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