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As National Palliative Care Week comes to a close, the Flinders University in South Australia has announced new research projects that are looking to providing aged care workers more critical support when delivering end-of-life palliative care services.

Research Fellow, Dr Sara Javanparast in the College of Nursing & Health Sciences is investigating the experience of carers of palliative patients accessing support services that assist them in their caregiving role, while helping them to maintain their own health and wellbeing.

The study aligns with the National Palliative Care Strategy 2018 and South Australia’s Palliative Care Strategic Framework 2022-27 priorities in relation to carer’s needs and support.

The project, awarded $74,165 by SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton, will undertake 25-30 individual interviews with end-of-life and palliative patient carers in SA and investigate their knowledge and experience of current services.

“We will then facilitate four focus groups to present key themes that have emerged from the interviews and discuss opportunities and gaps and ways that current services can be more responsive to the needs of those caring for palliative patients,” says Dr Javanparast.

“Using the death literacy questionnaire, we’ll measure the death literacy of study participants. This will enable us to make a comparison with the Australian national average and to identify areas of strength and gap for future planning and action.”

Death literacy is the knowledge about and understanding of the death system including components and functions that mediate our experience of death, dying, loss, and grief.

With National Palliative Care Week having started on Sunday, these projects highlight a timely and renewed focus on improving critical resources and making services more accessible for professional staff and carers looking after end-of-life patients.

Also awarded $75,000 in funding, Dr Deidre Morgan aims to develop resources which directly improve intimate hygiene standards in residential care facilities.

“How care with intimate hygiene is provided to those approaching the end of life is crucial in conserving or compromising dignity. The Royal Commission into Aged Care, Quality and Safety identified care that compromised dignity of those in residential aged care (RAC) facilities, the majority of whom have non-malignant disease, as an area for urgent attention,” said Dr Morgan.

“We will explore resident and worker perspectives about how we can best conserve dignity for those receiving care with intimate hygiene. We will use this knowledge to develop video training resources for staff.

“However, the RAC workforce is understaffed and receives minimal training in care provision, particularly in effective communication which underpins all clinical care. Targeted skills training can improve health worker communication in a range of care settings, including end-of-life care.”

A third project will be led by Dr Gwyn Jolley (Deputy Chair and Secretary) Healthy Cities Onkaparinga, a not for profit organisation, in collaboration with the Southern Vales Compassionate Communities (SVCC).

Dr Gwyn Jolley and Kristina Walsh (Chair, SVCC) are both members of the RePaDD at Flinders University.  The grant of $52,640 was awarded to work with the Onkaparinga community to develop Onkaparinga Compassionate Communities.

The project aims to support communities to build their own compassionate communities, in the City of Onkaparinga.  This will enable those communities to feel connected, more aware, and equipped to offer care and support to people at the end-of-life.