Study looks to benefit palliative patients

When social worker Merel Voth undertook a rural palliative care study in 2013, she expected people to complain

Research: Merel Voth recently completed a study in rural palliative care in the Shuswap. She found patients anxious to streamline their number of medical appointments.

When social worker Merel Voth undertook a rural palliative care study in 2013, she expected people to complain there are not enough specialists in Salmon Arm.

“Instead, people were saying ‘I love Salmon Arm and I like that my doctor  comes here on his lunch and he knows me by name,’” Voth says. “People know their pharmacists, the community care nurses are awesome and people were really so grateful for what we do have – even people in Blind Bay and they don’t get the services we get in Salmon Arm.”

A UBC grad student and an Interior Health social worker at the time, Voth wanted to know about the quality of life and care from the perspective of patients living in the Shuswap.

The study, which included in-depth work with seven individuals, began in October 2013 and ended in November 2014.

“People wanted to be as independent as possible through the whole process – to garden, or curl or whatever – life-giving activities…” she says. “When someone is ill, medical appointments become a full-time job, often for patient and caregiver, who then don’t have time for these life-giving activities. Lots of people identified their disease as ‘it,’ while their identity was still grounded in who they were – not their disease,” Voth says.

“One of the primary struggles for participants was the overwhelming amount of appointments that they had to attend. For example, it was not uncommon for participants to have three to five medical appointments per week,” she says. “This ranged from diagnostic appointments, specialist appointments, regular family doctor appointment, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.”

Voth says participants found it exhausting and suggested their quality of life and quality of care would greatly improve if medical treatment was more co-ordinated.

The study formed part of the requirements of Voth’s masters thesis and doctors on her UBC thesis committee want to undertake a bigger study to find out where cost-effective changes can be made to simplify palliative-care patients’ lives.

As well,they are hoping to present the study to a rural health care conference.

Voth says her study received very positive reviews and she is submitting a manuscript to a social work journal.

If you would like to read the full study results go to


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