The need for palliative care in India has never been greater

News: With the rise in non-communicable diseases, the requirement of palliative care is a must.

What is palliative care?

WHO defined palliative care as “the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.”

What are the problems associated with palliative care?

1) Lack of trained staff and healthcare professionals. 2) Restricted access to opioids for pain control. 3) Refusal to accept that there comes a time when one needs to work with the process of dying rather than against it.

Why does the need for palliative care arise?

Non-communicable diseases like cancer are rising these days. Presently, in India, 30 lakh people are suffering from cancer.  Of these, 75-80% are in the advanced stage and half of them die within a year. Yet, no more than 2% receive palliative care because of the paucity of service. With the corona pandemic, this count will further increase.

What should be done to improve the conditions of palliative care?

Trained professionals: Palliative care requires end-of-life conversations. So, there is a need for training professionals to work in a collaborative manner. People must also make a living will to designate a surrogate who can take decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.

Renaming: Rename palliative care and call it symptomatic care to make it more acceptable.

Treatment by specialists: There is a tendency to cut off relations once treatments fail. The treating specialist should continue to involve family members whose advice and support are needed by the patient.

Rehabilitation of family members: Apart from the patient, the survival and safety of members left behind is also a concern that should be addressed, especially in the case of India where it is missed.

Source: This post is based on the article “The need for palliative care in India has never been greater” published in the Indian Express on 24th November 2021.

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