Since the formation in 1998 of the palliative care for people with learning disabilities network, there has been some work bringing together service providers and carers to enable better co-ordination of care for the benefit of people with learning disabilities who have palliative care needs.
However, there is still a lack of research into the effect of the deaths of people with learning disabilities who use services on their fellow service users.
This qualitative study reported the findings from 16 focus groups which were held with staff. In the focus groups, participants described their perception of the experiences of people with learning disabilities when other service users die. The focus groups were held as part of a larger project describing the provision of palliative care to people with learning disabilities in Ireland
Analysis of the focus groups showed the emotional impact of the death of a friend on people with learning disabilities. The study suggests benefits to service users of situations where staff facilitated the involvement of users, although barriers to such involvement are also highlighted.
The authors conclude that their findings “affirm the importance of ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities have a good understanding of the concept of death to alleviate the bereavement experience.”
Exploring the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities when service users die, Ryan, K., et al., in British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 259–265.