A survey carried out by Millward Brown for the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) found that just 57% of respondents understood that palliative care is beneficial for anyone with a non-curable illness.
Just a quarter of survey respondents correctly identified that palliative care should be considered as early as possible and 16% knew that palliative care may be suitable for a number of years.
38% knew that a palliative approach cares for all aspects of the person – mind, body and spiritual and 45% knew that palliative care also supports family, friends and carers during an illness and afterwards.
The survey was carried out on a representative population sample of 1,000 adults across the Republic of Ireland.
AIIHPC Director, Paddie Blaney, said that the findings showed that more public education and conversations are needed on palliative care.
To help deepen understanding, AIIHPC is asking people living with a serious condition, their carers, family or friends to take part in a survey this month at www.caresurvey.org to share their experiences.
The survey is being supported by the Health and Safety Executive, and its findings will be used to improve services, better inform policy and to increase public understanding.
Ms Blaney said: “We want people to tell us more about their experiences – to share their stories about good and not so good experiences of palliative care.
“We need to move away from the misconception that palliative care is just for people who have cancer and are in their final weeks and days of life. Palliative care may be a sensitive and difficult topic to talk about, but it is vital we have these conversations.
“A palliative care approach helps to give the best possible quality of life to any adult or child living with a non-curable or serious illness – and it is suitable for a number of years. The approach cares for all aspects of the person – mind, body and spiritual – and also supports family, friends and carers.”
A palliative care approach is suitable for people with many non-curable conditions such as severe heart disease, end stage renal disease, motor neurone disease and dementia.