KOCHI: Modern medicine has made several new promising treatments available today. As a result, more and more people are living longer with diseases that were incurable earlier. However, it has also made more patients living longer with symptoms.
These survivors have different physical, social, psychological, economic, and even legal concerns. The philosophy of palliative care supports the patient’s search for normalcy, dignity, and comfort.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of health care professionals to ensure that the patient with any life-limiting illness has a chance at being both cured and healed. This is possible when there is seamless integration of palliative care and acute care through-out the trajectory of the disease especially in cancer management.
While the integration of palliative care with curative therapies is already a reality in the developed countries, India still has a long way to go. Palliative care has been developing in India since the mid-1980s.The palliative care teams, whether in the form of NGOs or other groups, have made important contributions in improving the care of patients with incurable illnesses in the country over the past 20 years.
Newer concept of pxalliative care
It is no longer the end of life care but a legitimate medical speciality that seeks to enhance the effectiveness of curative treatment by controlling pain and other symptoms. The competencies of palliative medicine are in relieving the suffering and promoting good quality of life for patients and families.
Contributions by palliative care specialists
In India, most patients with cancer and other terminal illnesses are diagnosed and treated in acute hospitals set ups. Acute hospitals are also the most common setting, where many people die.Thus, there is a need for skilled and compassionate care of the dying in the acute hospital setting. It is necessary that medical professionals who care for the dying on a day-to-day basis must have training in palliative care. This is important, given the unpredictability of the terminal phase of diseases.There are proven benefits of integrating palliative services with hospitals.
By including palliative services, hospital staff benefit from on-the-job training in end-of-life care and critical communications.Palliative care team can take advantage of the organizational resources of the hospital to provide greater care to a larger number of people.Serious and terminally ill patients can get better quality of holistic care covering social, spiritual and psychological aspects.
The hospital gets an enhanced positive image in the community for providing better care that encompasses not only the patient, but also the relatives. Sometimes there is reduction in cost of care through shortened duration of stay and patient-specific care.
Palliative care centres can contribute to the partnership by facilitating advance care planning, home care, end-of-life care clinical services, bereavement support, and volunteer training and integration. Thus, both partners bring strengths to the development and implementation of the optimum patient care program.
The author is an associate consultant at the Pain and Palliative Care Unit at VPS Lakeshore.
(Views expressed by the author are his own)