Initial findings

The impact of the social distancing restrictions was profound for Māori whānau as the policies severely limited their cultural and spiritual end of life tikanga (customs) compromising a collective whānau presence and the ability to carry out traditional death customs. The project explored challenges and gaps in palliative care provision, and the ways Māori whānau effectively used and adapted their tikanga (customs) and kawa (ceremonies), to carry out end of life care and post-death care.

Whānau grief was exacerbated by social restrictions (not having whānau present before, during and after death), and not being able practice traditional tangihanga (funeral customs). These restrictions impacted upon crucial tikanga and kawa that whānau use to support dying and grieving across all care settings including hospice, aged care, hospital and the community. Whānau experienced a reduction of palliative care support within the home, and they were deeply distressed when older family members were hospitalised without their presence and support, or with limited access to them.

The study findings will provide valuable information to support whānau who may be called upon to provide end of life care during future pandemics. We hope this information will help shape future pandemic policy and tangihanga policy. Whānau participants are requesting the Government hold a national memorial day to honour those who have passed and to acknowledge the sacrifices whānau went through during this time.

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