Research Highlights Need For Palliative Care Awareness

Enhanced public understanding of palliative care is required to improve provisions for end of life patients and their families in Northern Ireland, research conducted by Ulster University has found.

Some 86% of people are familiar with the term which refers to the nursing care provided for people with chronic conditions, however many assumed it was only for older people, those in the final six months of life and only provided in a hospital setting.

Lead researcher Professor Sonja McIlfatrick hopes the findings and recommendations of the study, released during Palliative Care Week (08-14 September), will contribute towards the ongoing development of a public health framework for palliative care.

The government has identified palliative care as a key public health priority with numerous tools and guidelines available. The study found that most people gained their knowledge from close friends and relatives receiving palliative care, with many misconceptions still existing around the issue.

Lead researcher and Head of School of Nursing at Ulster University Professor Sonja McIlfatrick commented: "With people living longer and often with progressive illness we all have an important role to play in both educating and empowering people to take control of their future health care.
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"We're starting to see growing awareness of the benefits that palliative care and advance care planning can provide, however they are not well understood by the public. Greater efforts are needed to promote palliative care and reduce the misconceptions among the public."

Evidence of broad support for promoting advanced care planning was found, with the majority of respondents saying they would be comforted to know they had left guidance with their family about their wishes. However, fear, taboo and shame, along with perceived lack of information plus an absence of public debate, were cited as reasons why such discussions do not take place.

Meanwhile, those living in rural settings possessed more accurate perceptions of palliative care than those living in urban settings.

Karen Charnley, Director of All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care, said the research shows the need for continued efforts to raise awareness and increase understanding of palliative care.

She commented: "Palliative Care Week aims to raise awareness of the difference palliative care can make to people with a life-limiting illness or condition, to carers and to families throughout the island of Ireland. This year's theme 'Palliative Care: Surrounding You With Support', is focusing on how people with palliative care needs are being supported in the community."


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