Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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Alcohol related liver disease, homelessness and volunteers

Alcohol related liver disease is one cause of organ failure, and liver disease is one of the top 5 causes of death in the UK. Alcohol has a significant role in liver cancer, which in Australia is the most rapidly rising form of cancer death (1).

The experience of homelessness has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and death. A recent report into end of life for people relying on hostel accommodation in the UK showed that over half the deaths of people living in hostels is from organ failure. The age of death is also significantly lower, at 47 years for men and 43 years for women (2).

A substance-user support service in the UK, Aquarius, developed a new ‘Befriending Care Service’ that trained volunteers to provide high quality care, including home visits; emotional, peer and practical support; signposting to services; and bereavement support for family and friends.

The aim of the program, and the achieved result, was to enable patients to better manage their underlying illness, make them more likely to attend medical appointment, reduce isolation and calls for crisis intervention. These benefits also accrued for their family and friends, and improved the person’s network of support (3).

(1) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015) Leading cause of premature mortality in Australia fact sheet: liver disease, Cat no PHE 199,  Canberra, AIHW.

(2) Kings Health Partners, Homeless and Inclusion Health

(3) eHospice, Hospice UK Annual Conference 2016: Silent communities – those we are not reaching, inequity and possibility, online post, 23 November 2016.


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