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News
14 May

Improving end of life care in Wales: Getting support right for care home residents approaching end of life

Patient and nurse

Dying Matters Awareness Week runs from 14 – 20 May and to mark the week we are launching the results of a survey of support to adult care homes in Wales. This report gives specialist palliative care providers' perspectives on support to care homes.  

The Dying Matters theme this year is “What Can You Do” as it challenges people to do something practical. This might be something for themselves, like making a will, or something for someone else who is bereaved, or caring for a dying relative. This could be something as simple as cooking a meal or walking the dog, but can make a huge difference to someone coping with death or bereavement.

In Wales, a group of researchers are already taking on the “What you can do” challenge by conducting leading research that aims to improve end of life care. Alisha Newman works for the Wales Cancer Research Centre and the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre in Cardiff. She has been involved in studies looking at improving services for people at the end of life.

Newman said: “We know Welsh care homes play an important role in supporting residents who are approaching the end of their lives but there’s a lack of knowledge about the successes and challenges of delivering high quality palliative and end of life care in this setting.” To help tackle this problem, she has conducted research with professionals working in care homes. Sixteen percent of all deaths registered in Wales during 2016 took place in a care home, so she is keen to establish how they are currently meeting the needs of their end of life residents, and what needs to be done to improve things.

“I’ve been working with care home professionals at all levels as well as specialist palliative care staff across Wales to establish the current picture,” she said. “Everyone I’ve met has been passionate about getting support right for care home residents approaching end of life. Together we have been working to identify the key challenges to delivering high quality end of life care in care homes. By focusing our research on the greatest areas of need we can ensure maximum benefit to people living in care homes.”

Prof Annmarie Nelson, Director of the Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Centre in Cardiff added, “People living in care homes should be able to access the same palliative care as any other person living at home in the community. We have found that one of the main issues is the transient nature of care home staff, which makes it difficult to deliver training or to retain a skills base in care homes. This has a direct effect on continuity of care and symptom control. This issue intersects health and social care and demonstrates the difficulty of achieving Welsh Government’s ambition to integrate health and social care.”

Read the report in full by clicking below: