Hospice survey addresses gaps in end of life care for homeless

Categories: Education.

Working group members

Alice Spearing, Engagement Officer at St Richard’s Hospice in Worcester, writes about their work to improve end of life care for homeless people.

Last year St Richard’s Hospice started a working group to explore how they could help to improve end of life care for people in Worcestershire experiencing homelessness. The working group includes representatives from the local hostel, day centre, outreach team and Community Support Officers.

End of life care was recognised as a gap in knowledge and awareness amongst homelessness services. As a result, St Richard’s Hospice carried out a survey to explore the training needs of staff and volunteers supporting people who found themselves homeless.

The short online survey was completed by 21 respondents from across South Worcestershire, including paid and voluntary staff from hostels, food banks, churches and the police. The majority of respondents had come into contact with people experiencing homelessness who have a life-limiting diagnosis. The survey’s findings included:

  • Respondents were asked to state how often in the past six months they had come into contact with someone who had a life-limiting diagnosis – responses ranged from 0 to 6 times
  • The majority of respondents had a clear understanding of palliative care however were uncertain of the specific care and support provided by St Richard’s Hospice and requested more information
  • The majority of respondents did not feel confident supporting people experiencing a bereavement
  • Respondents were asked what their greatest anxiety would be when supporting someone with rapidly deteriorating health, responses included: ‘Not meeting the needs of the person by missing out on support available’
    ‘Understanding the effects on the body, daily activities of living and how to help’
  • ‘Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time’
    ‘Talking about death, dying and life expectancy with that person’
    Managing bereavement, distress and upset of the person’
  • Respondents were comfortable completing e-learning or face to face training

In response to the survey, St Richard’s Hospice will take the following steps:

  • Invite staff and volunteers working with people experiencing homelessness to the hospice for a tour of the building and talk about the care and support available. We know tours of the hospice can change common misperceptions of hospice care and increase people’s understanding of palliative care
  • Explore e-learning options for staff and volunteers to support with communication skills around death, dying and bereavement
  • Explore supporting homelessness workers at the point of need for bereavement advice
  • Survey St Richard’s Hospice staff and volunteers to identify internal training needs when supporting a patient experiencing homelessness. Our working group partners have agreed to support identified training needs

For more information visit St Richard’s Hospice or email Alice Spearing