For many years, people who are dying, and their families or carers, have experienced isolation, exclusion from social circles and increased distance from their local communities. This study aimed to establish a greater understanding of the current social needs of people in receipt of palliative care, living in their own home, how their social needs have changed due to advancing illness and how their needs are currently met.
Methods: A qualitative design was devised using semi-structured interviews to explore and generate understanding. Purposeful sampling was utilized, and participants were identified through staff employed by a speciality hospice based in Northern Ireland.
Results: Seven one-to-one interviews were conducted over the course of the study. Findings have shown, ‘social support’, is an unfamiliar term which is broad and ambiguous. Types of support, how it is accessed and valued varied. Difficulties maintaining social contact were identified along with associated losses and a desire to avoid burdening others. Self-management strategies were utilised to help overcome barriers and coping through difficult times. Availability and accessibility of support when needed was important along with a need for information and appropriate application for support when required.
Conclusion: Social support is varied and has specific individual meaning and weighting depending on a range of circumstances. In view of progressive financial restraints on services and societal changes there is a need for further research to inform needs assessment and establishment of the most appropriate mechanisms to meet the social support needs of those in receipt of palliative care.
- end stage
- end- of-life