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Tool to assess carers’ needs

Project aims to support family carers of loved ones at end-of-life.

A Curtin University-led international collaboration is aiming to bring dignity and support to end-of-life patients and the people who care for them.

In collaboration with Silver Chain Hospice Care, the group is implementing a comprehensive Carer Support Needs Assessment Tool (CSNAT) to formally assess carers’ needs in supporting their loved ones to die in their place of choice, usually at home.

The project is a joint effort between Curtin University, Manchester University in the UK and the University of Victoria in Canada. It is part of the international collaboration on Family Caregiving Research in End of Life Care between Australia, UK and Canada. The CSNAT was developed by the UK team.

Home-based family care at end-of-life involves significant emotional, social, financial and physical costs and without significant support, potential caregivers may seek costly institutional forms of care.

Although government policies highlight that family carer support needs should be assessed and addressed, this approach is compromised by the lack of rigorously tested and comprehensive assessment tools for use by service providers, which are brief enough to be practical for application in busy clinical settings.

Professor Samar Aoun from the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute’s WA Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care said timely response to carer needs would save money and restore dignity to end-of-life care, as palliative care is about caring for both the patient and the family carer through early identification, assessment and management of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

“People want to keep their dignity and die at home, surrounded by their family,” Aoun said.
“We know that carers are doing a great deal, but they don’t have enough support.

“Without more support for family carers, more dying people would be admitted to hospital, which is a very costly alternative.”

The group partnered with Silver Chain Hospice Care to trial a simple questionnaire for assessing carers’ physical, social and emotional needs throughout the process of caring.

The trial will continue for three years, with 440 carers as a study group and controls.

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