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Reaching out to Ray: delivering palliative care services to a homeless person in Melbourne, Australia

By Judy Mac Williams, Michael Bramwell, Sally Brown and Margaret O'Connor


Most terminally ill people express a preference for dying at home. Within established models of palliative care, achieving death at home is a particular challenge for homeless people. This paper describes a quality-improvement project undertaken by a community-based palliative care service in Melbourne, Australia, to understand homeless people's palliative care needs and the challenges that workers face. Six semi-structured interviews with workers in hospital and community-based settings were undertaken and a case study documented. The results were used to initiate discussion about how policy and protocols for the community-based palliative care service might serve this population more effectively. The findings confirmed that homeless people have complex psychosocial and medical needs. They may be periodically uncontactable or living in unsafe settings, experience isolation from social support networks, and have issues of compliance with treatment protocols exacerbated by mental health problems and/or substance abuse. Service providers had particular challenges in meeting the palliative care needs of homeless people. A flexible, compassionate, and coordinated response is required, and more work is needed to explore how the needs of this particular group can be met

Topics: Homelessness, Palliative care, Service development, Policy, Mental health
Publisher: Mark Allen Group
Year: 2014
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