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Culturally appropriate palliative care on Country

7 Apr 2023

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people express the wish to be cared for, and to die, on Country if possible. When care at home is preferred, it can be provided by clinical services to help connect family, culture, community, Country and spiritual wellbeing, writes Prof. Liz Reymond MBBS (Hons), PhD, FRACGP, FAChPM, Director of the caring@home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families project.

The Pal­lia­tive Care Clin­ic Box, a free, cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate resource devel­oped by the caring@ home project, is one tool to assist fam­i­lies and car­ers to sup­port Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander peo­ple who choose to remain at home or on Coun­try for the final stage of their life.

When a per­son express­es a strong desire to return to Coun­try and the fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty are sup­port­ive, clin­i­cal ser­vices can use the resources to teach fam­i­lies and car­ers how to care for their loved one at home. Clin­i­cians can edu­cate the fam­i­ly about com­mon end-of-life symp­toms and how to help man­age these symp­toms at home includ­ing how to give sub­cu­ta­neous med­i­cines if the need arises.

Using the resources enables clin­i­cal ser­vices to pro­vide per­son-cen­tred, high-qual­i­ty pal­lia­tive care and, as illus­trat­ed by the sto­ry high­light­ed right, can lead to ben­e­fi­cial out­comes for the per­son, their fam­i­ly and the community.

The resources in the Pal­lia­tive Care Clin­ic Box are freely avail­able to clin­i­cal ser­vices and applic­a­ble Aus­tralia-wide. They have been tai­lored from the stan­dard caring@home resources, and include fam­i­ly tip sheets on symp­tom man­age­ment, step-by-step guides about giv­ing sub­cu­ta­neous med­i­cines, short train­ing videos, a med­i­cine book and wall chart. There are also spe­cif­ic resources for health pro­fes­sion­als and clin­i­cal ser­vices to sup­port teach­ing fam­i­lies and carers.

The caring@home team under­took an exten­sive con­sul­ta­tion process over two years with Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous health pro­fes­sion­als from pri­ma­ry health care and spe­cial­ist pal­lia­tive care clin­i­cal ser­vices and oth­er key stake­hold­ers in each state and ter­ri­to­ry, seek­ing advice and feed­back on the devel­op­ment of the resources.

Since launch­ing in August 2022, 500 Pal­lia­tive Care Clin­ic Box­es have been dis­trib­uted to clin­i­cal ser­vices around Aus­tralia with pos­i­tive feed­back received from clin­i­cians and fam­i­lies about the use­ful­ness and prac­ti­cal­i­ty of the resources.

Clin­i­cal ser­vices can order a free Clin­ic Box by vis­it­ing www​.caringath​ome​pro​ject​.com​.au. All resources can be down­loaded from the website.

caring@home for Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander Fam­i­lies is a Nation­al Pal­lia­tive Care Project, fund­ed by the Aus­tralia Gov­ern­ment. This project is con­duct­ed by a con­sor­tium involv­ing Aus­tralian Indige­nous Health­In­foNet, Pal­lia­tive Care Aus­tralia, the Con­gress of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander Nurs­es and Mid­wives (CATSI­NaM) and led by Bris­bane South Pal­lia­tive Care Collaborative.

We gave that med­i­cine; you know the one for sick­ness in the gut. Sis did real well using them easy instruc­tions and tips in the [caring@home] resources.

And I’ll tell you what, after days of not eat­ing, he smelt them roo tails being smoked on the bar­bie and a few hours after that sick med­i­cine kicked in, he hoovered them tails right down.

He says that the roo tail, this is the cul­tur­al sym­bol­ism used for bal­ance and strength… and the roo tail is used to defend off harm and threats. The roo tails give us direc­tion, propul­sion and speed. And I’m telling you what, we all know he can use these as her nears the Dream­ing.

He sat by the fire with this fam­i­ly tonight. At three, his spir­it danced in the flames, his body now at rest… because you guys ensured that his spir­it got to rest in the def­i­n­i­tion of his own peace.

Abo­rig­i­nal fam­i­ly from remote West­ern Queens­land. This sto­ry was shared with the per­mis­sion of the fam­i­ly involved. We thank them for their gen­eros­i­ty in allow­ing us to pub­lish it.