Regional Health Research

Supporting end-of-life conversations and care in rural communities

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The University of South Australia’s groundbreaking research is helping people in rural palliative care foster longer, richer lives through conversations and support.

Dubbed the ‘Living well as long as we can’ project, this initiative aims to enhance awareness and comprehension surrounding end-of-life planning and care. By doing so, individuals can actively make informed choices regarding their final stages.

In collaboration with Palliative Care SA, the University of Adelaide, and Flinders University, this project is an integral part of a comprehensive five-year State-wide program funded by The Hospital Research Foundation.

Heading this rural-centered research is UniSA’s Associate Professor Kate Gunn. She explains that the project involves collaborating with local community leaders to spotlight how rural communities can bolster each other during life’s final phases. The project seeks to effectively navigate systems and amplify existing strengths.

Gunn emphasised, “Community members are very well placed to support each other with the numerous challenges that can present at end of life.” She added, “Rural people are especially good at this – they often have to be when formal services are limited.”

She further elaborated on the excitement of partnering with rural community leaders and Palliative Care SA. The collaboration aims to find innovative approaches to foster conversations and enhance community cooperation and assistance during these challenging circumstances.

This multi-faceted project will encompass four rural regions in South Australia: Mt Gambier, Port Lincoln, Berri and Whyalla. The initial step involves soliciting insights from these communities regarding their existing knowledge of palliative care and end-of-life matters through an online survey.

Palliative Care SA CEO Shyla Mills said the palliative care concerns everyone. She underscores that while dying is a natural aspect of life, many people often find themselves unsure of how to help. This project aims to work with community leaders to offer guidance on seeking and accepting assistance during life’s final stages.

Mills highlights the project’s fundamental premise that dying is a social component of life with a medical aspect, rather than the other way around. Thus, collaborating with rural communities to expand their networks of care around individuals in their final stages of life holds paramount significance.

Related: Improving palliative care for Australians living with dementia

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