Why Palliative Care ?

During the course of any disease, when the disease is no longer responsive to curative  treatment, our emphasis should shift to caring the patient and family. Palliative Care involves an active and total care for such patients and help in improving their and their family’s quality of life. Palliative care is a humanitarian service rendered to those suffering from Cancer, HIV/AIDS, paralysis, terminal diseases, Dementia such as Alzheimer’s, organ failure, intractable pains etc. Such a care is possible only through a committed team of Volunteers, Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers etc.responding to physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of the patient.

Problems of Incurable patients

  • Physical afflictions: Severe pain, incurable ulcers, frequent vomiting, breathlessness, etc.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Social problems: Loss of job; changes in interpersonal relationships;inability to fulfill societal and familial obligations and responsibilities.
  • Emotional problems: Isolation, fear, hopelessness, sense  of guilt, fear of death, gloom.
  • Spiritual crisis.:questions of the meaning of life & death, the need to be at peace.

Palliative care improves the quality of life of people with life-threatening or debilitating illness by providing relief from pain and other  physical symptoms and care for  psychosocial  needs. To ensure the most effective care for patients, palliative care begins at the point of diagnosis, continues throughout treatment, and bereavement support is offered to the family after the patient’s death. If cure is possible, palliative care provides essential care to provide pain relief, control symptoms, and minimize suffering. Recent research has shown that early palliative care with standard cancer treatment extended survival when compared to standard cancer treatment alone.

Home Based Palliative Care

Home-based palliative care services are becoming  increasingly popular with care being taken to the doorstep of the patient. Ideally, this is where people are most  comfortable at the end of their lives, surrounded by their loved ones. It is also well suited to conditions in India where a family member is usually available and willing to nurse the sick person. The aim of home-based care is ultimately to “promote, restore, and maintain a person’s maximum level of comfort, function, and health, including care toward a   dignified death.” Home-based care models are also generally person-centered and comprehensive, with the aim to take into account factors such as culture, religion, and value systems, and respect people’s rights to privacy and dignity, which fits in well with its“community-driven” philosophy.

Imagine a young woman with three children… she lives in a shanty town. Her husband died six months ago and the neighbours say he must have had HIV. Now she is becoming sick, has lost weight and she is scared that she may also die.Recently she developed a painful ulcerating swelling on her leg which stops her sleeping. Some days she can barely get out of bed to care for her children, but her parents are far away in the village. The landlord is asking for rent but she has no income since her husband died. The neighbours are gossiping, saying that the family is cursed, and she wonders if they are right, since she has prayed for help but none has come.

If you were that woman, what would be on your mind?

We can imagine that her illness is only one of her many problems. Her greatest worry might be how to put food on the table for her family, or what will happen to her children if she dies. She has no financial support, she is isolated and feels rejected by God. Palliative care is about people rather than diseases and seeks to address the problems

which are of most concern to the patient.

Palliative care is about living as well as dying

Many people think that palliative care is just about looking after someone in the last few days of their life, but infact it is about relieving suffering and improving quality of life right from the time when a person first finds out that they have an incurable illness. The aim of palliative care is not to lengthen – or shorten – life but to improve quality of life so that the time remaining, be it days, or months, or years, can be as peaceful and fruitful as possible