Palliative Care – What’s That?

Often it is believed that palliative care is meant for cancer patients approaching the end of life, when treatment is no longer possible. This is untrue. Explained simply, Palliative Care covers all serious health related suffering due to severe illnesses like cancer, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, heart disease, liver failure etc. It also includes illnesses like Strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Palliative care teams also take care of bedridden patients. 

Professional palliative care commences from the time of diagnosis and is provided along with treatment. It is essentially an approach that focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life by providing ‘Symptom Management’, like pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, breathlessness, fatigue, lack of sleep, lack of appetite or any other cause, which brings discomfort to the patient. 

The pain of the patient may not necessarily be physical, and hence the multidisciplinary palliative care team also includes a counsellor who provides support towards any emotional, psychosocial or spiritual pain. The patient is looked upon holistically; the disease is just a part of him or her. A unique care plan is made for each patient.

Parsis are known for their longevity and there are many instances when they are alone and bedridden, while their children are abroad or perhaps they have no close family of their own.  Alzheimer’s and Dementia is also quite common in our community. In such ailments, it is the caregiver who suffers, as the patient is usually in a world of their own. Palliative care supports such caregivers through counselling, helping them to develop their own coping mechanisms and sometimes even providing respite through volunteers. After the patient has passed away, the caregivers who are left with a vacuum are provided bereavement support and assisted to resume their own lives.  

Pouruchisti Wadia is the Associate Programme Director at Romila Palliative Care (SNEHA initiative), which supports patients with life-limiting illnesses. She commands over two decades of experience in the social sector, having shared her expertise across diverse roles in genres like law, human rights and women’s rights with non-profit organisations in Mumbai. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law (Mumbai University) and a Master’s in Social Work (Tata Institute of Social Sciences).

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