Background A holistic approach to supporting a person with life-limiting illness and their families requires a consideration of their social context, including the availability of social support (defined as the resources gained from relationships with others). Hospices offer social environments, enabling opportunities to interact with others, maintain self-esteem and engage in group activities which are reported to be valuable opportunities to improve wellbeing. There has been limited research into the role of social support in palliative care, and whether the provision of such support has a measurable impact on patient outcomes.
Aims This three-year project will use mixed methods to explore services offered by hospices that facilitate social support, leading to a detailed understanding of social support in palliative care.
Methods A survey, disseminated to all hospices in the UK, will contribute knowledge on the establishment and variety of services that offer social support. Qualitative investigation including observations and interviews with service providers will seek to establish the meaning of social support in life-limiting illness and gain detailed understanding of services. A prospective study of patient reported outcome measures will be used to test the effectiveness (and if possible, cost-effectiveness) of these services.
Results An analysis of the results of the survey and preliminary qualitative findings will be presented.
Conclusions The project will contribute knowledge on the variety and significance of social support services in UK hospices and provide evidence for policy and decision makers on the necessity of social support in the context of life-limiting illness.
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