What are the priorities for developing culturally appropriate palliative and end-of-life care for older people? The views of healthcare staff working in New Zealand

Authors


Gary Bellamy
School of Nursing
The University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, New Zealand
E-mail: g.bellamy@auckland.ac.nz

Abstract

This paper explores the views of healthcare staff regarding the provision of culturally appropriate palliative care for Māori, Pacific Island and Chinese elders living in Auckland, New Zealand. The ageing population is culturally and ethnically diverse and, along with other developed countries experiencing high levels of migration, the challenge is balancing the rise in numbers of older people from different ethnic and cultural groups with end-of-life care, which reflects personal values and beliefs. Two joint interviews and ten focus groups were conducted with eighty staff across a range of primary, secondary and speciality care settings in 2010. The findings demonstrated that participants viewed the involvement of family as fundamental to the provision of palliative care for Māori, Pacific Island and Chinese elders. For Māori and Pacific Islanders, healthcare staff indicated the importance of enabling family members to provide ‘hands-on’ care. The role of family in decision-making was fundamental to the delivery of and satisfaction with care for older Chinese family members. Care staff highlighted the need to be cognisant of individual preferences both within and across cultures as a fundamental aspect of palliative care provision. The role of family in ‘hands-on’ palliative care and decision-making requires care staff to relinquish their role as ‘expert provider’. Counter to the prioritisation of autonomy in Western health-care, collective decision-making was favoured by Chinese elders. Providing families with the requisite knowledge and skills to give care to older family members was important. Whilst assumptions are sometimes made about preferences for end-of-life care based on cultural values alone, these data suggest that care preferences need to be ascertained by working with family members on an individual basis and in a manner that respects their involvement in palliative care provision.

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