Background Social isolation is increasing, with negative consequences for both physical and mental health. People with life-limiting illness and their carers are at risk of inadequate social support and loneliness. Hospices support social wellbeing with services including traditional day care, support groups, befriending, multi-component interventions, and community activities. Existing research suggests that access to social support is highly valued. However, models of support used in practice are poorly documented and outcomes difficult to ascertain. The significance of social support in palliative care is under-researched.
Aim To establish an overview of hospice service models that facilitate social support for adults living in the community with life-limiting illness.
Method An online survey was developed, piloted, and disseminated to adult hospices in the UK and ROI. Questions include hospice characteristics, provision of services facilitating social support, access issues, use of patient outcomes, and availability of cost data.
Results 107 hospices responded to the survey (c. 50% of eligible hospices). A diverse range of service models were identified. Results include descriptive statistics of the sample, categories of services identified, and salient access issues. Implications of findings for research and economic evaluation are discussed.
Conclusion This survey demonstrates hospices to be interested and active in facilitating social support. It is possible that increasingly diverse approaches used in practice may improve issues regarding access to and awareness of hospice care. More work is needed to share best practice, document outcomes, and consider cost-effectiveness.
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