Contending with palliative decline: The work of adaptation

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Introduction: Research indicates adaptation to functional deterioration following traumatic events such as stroke may take up to several years. People with a palliative cancer diagnosis experience cumulative and rapid decline within the context of shortened life expectancy. There is a paucity of research exploring how people adapt to functional decline at end-of-life.

Objective: To explore ways in which people adapt to functional decline at end-of-life

Methods: Ten patients with end stage cancer were inter-viewed in their homes. Participants had an Australian Karnofsky Performance Status Score between 50 and 70 and ages ranged from 51 years to 95 years. Perspectives were sought on their experiences of functional decline and how these changes affected their day to day lives. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed guided by Colaizzi’s methods. One page summaries were sent to participants for member checking.

Results: People value opportunity to exert control over functional decline but also need to increasingly rely on others. Bodies change rapidly with palliative illness and people need to constantly reacquaint themselves with what their bodies can or cannot manage. When bodies don’t respond in familiar ways but desire to participate in daily life remains, strategies are employed to manage these changes. Clinicians play an important role in either aiding or hindering this adaptation.

Conclusion: Although palliative functional decline is relent-less, the work of adaptation matches this. Participant experiences reflect challenges associated with actively living and dying. These findings challenge us to consider ways in which we support patients as they contend with deterioration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6
Number of pages1
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue numbers1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes
Event24th National Conference and Exhibition - Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 29 Jun 20111 Jul 2011


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