The palliative care experiences of adults living in regional and remote areas of Australia: A literature review.
Whilst access to respite care has been found to represent an important source of support for terminally ill patients and their families, the availability of these services to Indigenous Australians has to date remained undocumented. This potential need for respite in Indigenous communities was explored as part of a National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) funded study designed to develop an innovative model for Indigenous palliative care. The data needed for model development were collected through a series of open-ended, qualitative interviews conducted with a cross-section of consumers and health professionals within the Northern Territory, Australia. The findings reflected a serious need for Indigenous respite services, coupled with a severe deficiency in the present availability of these services, especially within rural and regional areas. This lack of local respite services was documented to be negatively impacting upon the ability of carers to fulfil their caring duties and was found placing undue physical, emotional and economic stress upon carers, patients and their families. Furthermore, the lack of access to local respite services documented was found to be forcing rural and regional patients to relocate to metropolitan areas away from the family, community and land to which strong ties are held. The lack of Indigenous respite services was also found to obstruct patients' and carers' wishes for death to occur in the local community, rather than in far away cities. Significant obstacles were found to be hindering the provision of respite care to Indigenous Australians, namely beliefs about families looking after their own, resource restrictions, limited staff availability in local areas, as well as problems associated with hostel use in metropolitan areas. The conclusions drawn from this study suggest the importance of tackling the obstacles preventing local respite services being established in areas close to where patients and carers live.