A small study of residential aged care facilities has revealed valuable insights into the way in which volunteers are engaged with people at the end of their lives.
Megan Burke, now a Policy Officer with Palliative Care NSW, was a student when she undertook the research as part of an internship in 2015.
Based on telephone interviews Megan said that the study put her on a steep learning curve, particularly in understanding the contested meanings of ‘palliative care’, ‘palliative approach’ and ‘end of life’ care.
“For example one of the respondents commented, ‘when I am talking about palliative care I am talking about the last few days of life’ but in other settings the definitions of palliative care tend to talk in terms of weeks” said Megan.
Megan found that about 75% of services supported volunteers, but only about 42% of services considered that they utilised volunteers in palliative care.
Services with volunteers in palliative care tended to have less volunteers doing more hours (average about 12 hours per volunteer per week), versus more volunteers doing less hours (about 5 hours per volunteer per week) for other services. “Perhaps services that utilise larger number of volunteers for fewer hours are more task focused with less emphasis on establishing relationships with residents”.
With an aging population the potential for palliative-trained volunteers to provide support to residents and services warrants further study.
Megan presented her results for the first time to the Palliative and Aged Care Network at their December 2015 meeting. Her paper is available here.
Pic: Megan Burke (L) and Linda Hansen EO of Palliative Care NSW, with Bronwyn Heron from the Palliative and Aged Care Network (PACN) at the December meeting of the PACN held at Montefiore House.