Support to deliver palliative care on Country

  • People sitting on stairway
  • Man and woman talking in kitchen
  • Woman pushing older woman in wheelchair in the garden

[Image: caring@home]

An Indigenous palliative care nurse practitioner shared this story from the family of an Aboriginal man who had a strong desire to return to Country in remote western Queensland to finish up.

With the help of local clinicians and a supportive family, the man’s wish was achieved. Using resources from the caring@home Palliative Care Clinic Box, the man’s family was taught about common end-of-life symptoms and how to help manage these at home, including giving subcutaneous medicines when needed.

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. – Family member*

The Clinic Box, a free and culturally appropriate resource developed by caring@home, is one tool available to assist clinicians to support families and carers helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who choose to be cared for at home, or on Country, for the final stage of their life-course.

When care at home is preferred, it can be provided to help connect family, culture, community, Country and the spiritual wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Providing care at home for a loved one can be a positive experience for families.

He sat by the fire with his family tonight. At three [o’clock], 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. – Family member*

Other families have provided feedback about using the caring@home resources.

My brothers and uncles looked at these [resources] and could work out the medication needed by tracking on the [tip] sheets what we could do to help. Helping our family is important when they are very sick. This goes with our communal roles in our community. So big thanks for helping us stay stronger together. – Family member*

The resources in the Clinic Box are applicable Australia-wide. In regional, rural and remote locations, where families live a long way from clinical services, the resources may be particularly valuable.

Clinic Box resources for families have been tailored from the standard caring@home resources. There are also specific resources for health professionals and clinical services to support teaching families and carers, including an online education module, a clinician handbook, the palliMEDS app and an example policy and procedure document.

The caring@home team undertook an extensive consultation process over two years with Indigenous and non-Indigenous health professionals and other key stakeholders in each state and territory, seeking advice and feedback on the development of the resources. Since launching in August 2022, we have distributed 700 Palliative Care Clinic Boxes to clinical services around Australia with positive feedback received from clinicians and families about the usefulness and practicality of the resources.

I really like the art[work] with the pretty colours. I [k]new it was made just for us mob. [I feel] safe now with these [resources]. – Family member*

Clinical services can order a free Clinic Box from www.caringathomeproject.com.au. All resources contained in the Clinic Box can also be downloaded from the website.

caring@home is a National Palliative Care Project, led by the Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative. caring@home has been re‑funded by the Australian Government until 2026 to continue its work in developing resources to support clinicians and families providing home-based palliative care.

*The comments featured in this article were shared with the permission of the families involved. We thank them for their generosity.

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