A research project is looking at ways to help rural people in palliative care live better for longer, have tough conversations and find support.
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.
It will involve working with local community leaders to find ways to highlight how rural communities can support each other at end-of-life, navigate systems and make their existing strengths more visible.
Involving people Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln, Berri and Whyalla, it will start with a survey asking people in these towns what they already know about palliative care and end of life issues.
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.
UniSA, University of Adelaide, Flinders University and Palliative Care SA are working together on the project, which 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, said rural people are especially good at supporting each other with end-of-life challenges, particularly as they often have to be when formal services are limited. But this project could help enhance this.
"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," she said.
Palliative Care SA chief executive officer Shyla Mills said 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," she said.
"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 Mount 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
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