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Giving vulnerable people a voice in conversations about death and dying

People with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and chronic airways disease; those from migrant groups; and Indigenous people will all have their say on death and dying as part of a new Australian research project.

Led by University of Adelaide researcher Dr Jaklin Eliott, the research was recently awarded more than $379,000 from the National Health and Medical Research Council and aims to find ways for the most vulnerable people in society to be able to speak with healthcare professionals about advance care planning.

Eliott said the quietest voice in the conversation about death and dying is often the person who is dying.

And it seems the voices of vulnerable members of society are often even quieter. Eliott said: "The various healthcare policies and practices that have been developed to help Australians document their end-of-life preferences are typically designed to suit the majority population, which may not meet the needs of vulnerable Australians.

"Those most vulnerable include people with lower levels of health literacy, with chronic diseases who may be too unwell to discuss their wishes, or are part of cultural groups that value family or community decisions over individual decision-making."

Nursing Review sat down with Eliott to find out what information she is hoping to gather and how it will be used to change the way conversations about death and dying take place or increase the likelihood that they will occur.

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