Access to care at the end of life: encounters between home care nurses and family caregivers

An important social change of the last quarter century has been a shift in the setting for health care delivery away from institutions — the move from facility-based care to home-based care. In particular, access to palliative home care services has become a major health policy issue in Canada. With an aging population, a growing number of Canadians diagnosed with terminal illness, and almost 90 per cent of Canadians reporting a preference to spend their final days at home, current government policy is pressing for more and better care of the terminally ill in the community. While several conditions are needed to effectively support palliative care at home, two of the most important are the availability of family caregivers (FCGs) and access to services by home care nurses (HCNs). Dr. Kelli Stajduhar is studying the decision-making factors that HCNs take into account when providing specific levels and types of palliative home care nursing services and exploring how the relationships between HCNs and FCGs shape access to care for dying patients. She is interviewing FCGs providing palliative care at home, HCNs and expert clinicians and administrators. Dr. Stajduhar is also observing relationships between HCNs and FCGs to better understand how these interactions affect access to care. Ultimately, results from this research will inform the development of health services, policies and HCNs’ decision making in order to improve access to care for families in palliative care.