Palliative care is a multi-disciplinary approach to specialised medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from their symptoms, pain, physical stress and the mental stress of a chronic illness which is not responsive to curative treatment. The purpose behind palliative care is to make patients affirm life and regard dying as a normal process.
In the past few years, in addition to old-age related illnesses, there has been a sizeable increase in cases of Incurable Cancers, Chronic Neurological Problems, End Stage Liver Disease, Terminal Renal Disease, etc. in rural areas. These are compounded, due to poverty, by the lack of timely care and regular check-ups or treatment. In such a scenario, palliative care becomes of vital importance.
In India, a huge majority of those in need do not have access to palliative care. Non-availability of proper advice or avenues for pain-management makes many people’s end-of-life miserable. Caregivers also have to endure their loved ones’ suffering in spite of the treatments and expenses already undertaken till that point.
RDT’s Pain & Palliative Care unit started in June 2015 for patients with Chronic Incurable Diseases and their end-of-life pain management. This unit is more patient-centred rather than disease-centred. The focus is on building a partnership between the patients and the caregivers for achieving the best possible outcome. Patients and their families are made aware about the illness and its course, and psycho-social support in the form of counselling is provided to them.
Family members are motivated to take care of patients at home and trained to manage the day-to-day hygiene and sanitation activities, e.g. operating a urinary catheter, diaper management, simple dressing methods, etc., to make the patient comfortable and better their quality of life.
The unit follows WHO’s guidelines for pain management, which include respect for patients’ choice of treatment, doing good (beneficence), minimising harm (non-maleficence) and fair use of available resources (justice). The unit also provides medication and assists in wound management. Our team also runs the Pain and Palliative care OPD in the Cancer Unit / Radiotherapy Unit at Ananthapuram Government Hospital on every Thursday.
RDT believes that it is important to build awareness among public and invite volunteers to extend help in palliative care.