At the entrance of Cipla Palliative Care and Training Centre (a unit of Cipla Foundation) at Warje in Pune, three little words—care beyond cure—carry a message of hope. After all, the centre has cared for thousands of patients since it was established in 1997. Taking care of patients who are battling death is no mean task, but the centre labours on to bring meaning and acceptance to the lives of the anguished till death wins over.
Who better to understand the needs of the patients than Priyadarshini Kulkarni who has spent 15 years at the hospice. In 2008, she took over the reins of the centre when she was appointed its medical director. At the outset itself, she clarifies, “First of all, our centre is not a hospice. Hospice is traditionally known as a place where sick people are admitted and cared for till the end. Our centre is involved in a much broader concept of palliative care. Patients come to us for symptom relief even when they are taking curative treatment. They stay with us for a short duration. They can be admitted for new symptoms again.”
Priyadarshini agrees that a lot of patients are not aware about palliative care. It is a new approach which improves quality of life of patients and their family members who are suffering from life limiting illness. It not only consists of treating symptoms with medicines but also looks at physical, social and psychological wellbeing of the patient. It requires a team approach, comprising doctors, nurses, medical and social workers, counsellors and volunteers. “A lot of patients either come to us on recommendations from someone who has taken treatment at our centre or they are referred by doctors. Now, gradually people have also come to know about our centre,” says Priyadarshini.
She continues, “Yes, there is sense of achievement as we could look after more than 8,800 patients, but looking at the needs of the community a lot more needs to be done,” says Priyadarshini.
She points out the feature that sets them apart from other palliative centres, “Our centre has a family care model which is very unique. When a patient comes for admission, we generally ask a close relative to accompany the patient during the stay. And while the patient is being treated, our team simultaneously works with the relatives, training them to look after the patients in a practical way. In addition, there are sessions especially for relatives which focus on helping their patient, training them to deal with any situation.” Besides, it is also one of the few centres that undertake training and research in palliative care.
Talking about the strength of the centre, Priyadarshini confirms, “We can look after 50 patients at a time. We care for about another 120 patients in the community through home care services. We have OPDs in four government and semi-government hospitals in Pune. We do not have special rooms as we believe that each patient unknowingly and knowingly teaches the other patient a lot more than our counsellors and medical social workers. Once the patients become critically ill, we shift them to another place where their family members can be by their side all the time.”
As a part of World Palliative Care Day which falls on the second week of October, they are organising a walkathon on October 12.
Winding up the interview, Priyadarshini says pragmatically, “Deaths happening in our centre are different than those happening in the ICUs. We do not prolong the suffering of the patient who is not going to recover by artificial means. Our team swiftly guides the patients and their families to accept reality and supports them through their difficult times.”
What is Palliative Care?
■ It is a new approach which improves the quality of life of patients who are suffering from life limiting illness and their family members. It not only consists of treating symptoms with medicines but also looks at physical, social and psychological wellbeing of the patient. It requires a team approach, comprising doctors, nurses, medical and social workers, counsellors and volunteers.