Patients often view “palliative care” (PC) as an approach that is synonymous with end-of-life and death, leading to shock and fear. Differing cultural and social norms and religious affiliations greatly determine perception of PC among diverse populations.
This prospective observational study aimed to explore perceptions of PC among South Asian community members at one Canadian site. Patients who identified themselves as being of South Asian origin were consented and enrolled at a PC Clinic at a community hospital in Brampton, Ontario serving a large South Asian population. Participants filled out an 18-question survey created for the study and responded to a semi-structured interview consisting of 8 questions that further probed their perceptions of PC. Survey responses and semi-structured interviews content were analyzed by four authors who reached consensus on key exploratory findings.
Thirty-four participants of South Asian origin were recruited (61.8% males), and they were distributed by their age group as follows: [(30–49) - 18%; (50–64) – 21%; (65–79) - 41%; (≥ 80) – 21%]. Five main exploratory findings emerged: (i) differing attitudes towards talking about death; (ii) the key role of family in providing care; (iii) a significant lack of prior knowledge of PC; (iv) a common emphasis on the importance of alleviating suffering and pain to maintain comfort; and (v) that cultural values, faith, or spiritual belief do not pose a necessary challenge to acceptance of PC services.
Observations from this study provide a source of reference to understand the key findings and variability in perceptions of palliative care in South Asian communities. Culturally competent interventions based on trends observed in this study could assist Palliative Physicians in delivering personalized care to South Asian populations.