Study to improve care of older Pacific people

A study to improve end-of-life care for older Pacific people will begin early next year at the University of Auckland as part of the Ageing Well, National Science Challenge.

“Pacific older adults have high levels of unmet need and poor access to palliative care while dying,” says research fellow Dr Ofa Dewes from the University’s School of Nursing.


“This study will provide urgently-needed information on Pacific people’s experiences in palliative care,” she says. “It will also research the experiences and challenges faced by their aiga [family] who carry out the bulk of their care.”


“The research aims to improve end-of-life care for older Pacific people,” says Dr Dewes.


The study is one of four projects nationally, announced recently by the Ageing Well National Science Challenge (NSC) with total new funding of $3.25 million for the four innovative research projects.


In recognition of the specific challenges and opportunities faced by Māori and Pacific people to age well, the focus of this year’s Ageing Well NSC contestable funding round was research that investigated aspects of ageing that are prevalent for these groups of people.


The two-year study by Dr Dewes is titled, ‘Tapinga ‘a Maama’: Pacific Life and Death in Advanced Age, and is funded for $450,000 by the Ageing Well NSC.


“This research is crucial given the concerns raised by Pacific communities about dissonances between the nature of care and support preferred by Pacific older adults and their aiga at the end-of-life, and the provision of palliative care services,” says Dr Dewes.


“Our study draws on Pacific health models to address that knowledge gap and explores the end of life circumstances of Pacific people dying in advanced age,” she says.


“Using rigorous qualitative methods, interviews will be conducted with about 30 bereaved aiga of people dying at more than 75 years old,” says Dr Dewes.


“Our research will deliver outcomes that impact: health and wellbeing to end of life, and during bereavement for aiga; age-friendly environments; increased health equity; integrated health care and social support services; and culturally-appropriate and systems-based approaches to support ageing (and dying) in place.”


The project team carrying out the research and led by Dr Dewes, includes academics from the School of Nursing and the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, a facilitator for Pacific aged care services, and an international community liaison from Hawaii.