End-of-life care for older rural people: just being there


  • Barbara Horrell
  • Christine Stephens




end-of-life care, rural, older people, narratives


This paper discusses the experience of caring for someone over 65, with a terminal illness, in rural New Zealand. The narratives from seven participants offer some contextual understanding of complex lived realities, potentially informing future rural EoL care and contributing to contemporary goals of positive ageing and dying well. Positioning themselves as carers, rather than as rural people, the participants speak about similar issues, with diverging perspectives reflecting their different carer standpoints. Limited access to 24 hour support and specialist palliative care services, and negotiating complex needs are juxtaposed with the joys and rewards of caring. Ambivalence and conflict permeate the stories, reflecting a particular socio-historical moment as, caught between two paradigms of care, the participants vacillate between desiring the empathic, compassionate care of yesteryear and the benefits of modern medical technology. Overall however, therapeutic relationships unambiguously emerge as the most valued aspect of quality EoL care.

Author Biographies

Barbara Horrell

Barbara Horrell is a PhD student in the School of Psychology, Massey University. Her research interests are informal care, ageing, rural health, and participatory research.

Christine Stephens

Christine Stephens is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology, Massey University where she teaches research methods and health psychology. She is currently involved with research on ageing, particularly the health effects of social connections and social support for older people.




How to Cite

Horrell, B., & Stephens, C. (2011). End-of-life care for older rural people: just being there. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 7(2), 90–112. https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol7iss2id131