Most older adults now face chronic illness and disability in the final years of life. These final years can prove painful and difficult for sick and disabled people, who have difficulty finding care to meet their needs. This period is often stressful and expensive for families. As currently configured, community social and health care services struggle to meet the needs of this population. A ‘palliative approach’ has been characterized as one way of conceptualizing care for those with advancing chronic illness. According to the World Health Organization, palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by offering pain and symptom relief, as well as spiritual and psycho-social support.
On April 27th The School of Nursing and Midwifery hosted a meeting to discuss how we might build on current strengths to establish a high impact research program in chronic illness and palliative care. In keeping with the university drive towards bringing together researchers from different disciplines who share similar research interests, an interdisciplinary approach was pursued extending invitations across schools and faculties in QUB.
Participants at the event were drawn from the Schools of Pharmacy, Psychology, Nursing and Midwifery, Sociology Social Policy and Social Work, and the Centre for Public Health. The group considered two questions: 1. How do we characterize a palliative approach to chronic life-limiting conditions? 2. What are the ingredients to generate a high impact research group committed to this area of work? Small group work followed by a general discussion generated a number of considerations and suggested strategies to move this initiative forward. This inaugural event is seen as being the first in a series of events leading to an active interdisciplinary research community in chronic illness and palliative care.