More awareness needed on palliative care

Monday, September 16th, 2019 00:00 |
World Health Organisation.

Eunice Victoria 

Seeing a loved one in pain can be heartbreaking for a caregiver or a family member especially when they have little or zero knowledge about the illness they are suffering from.

It is even more frustrating  to helplessly watch  a loved one’s body deteriorate to stage where they can no longer do basic self-care such as feeding themselves, showering, cleaning their clothes or even sanitary hygiene.

The  World Health Organisation defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing a problem associated with life-threatening illness.

This is done through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritually.

Palliative care is,  therefore,  a critical resource for patients living with life threatening or chronic diseases such as heart failure, cancer and dementia because it  gives them more options for treatment, enhances their knowledge on the illnesses symptoms further enabling a better and comfortable life.

This is why the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission, a constitutional  body, was established to promote respect for human rights. 

A caregiver should consult a palliative care institution immediately their loved one gets diagnosed with a life threatening illness to accord the best care to the patient as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately, majority do not know this. In my experience, when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, we were very confused.

We depended on the doctors who most of the times were not available because they were attending to other patients.

But thanks to the Internet, my sister was able to reach out to a palliative care institution through a goggle search.

The institution was able to send a representative to speak to my family enlightening us on what we needed to do, when and how. 

Through palliative care we found hope, although my mother did not make it, she was given better healthcare — and of course , physical and psychological comfort.

How we leave this world is unknown to us, but something we all know is that everyone deserves a good send off, the best care and hope that all will be well.

Palliative care assures the patient and caregivers that as much as life is precious, there comes a time that we will have to separate. 

Through drugs such pain killers, the patient is able to fight the disease with minimal pain.

 For instance, the Kenya Hospice and Palliative care Association ((KEHPCA)) gives key components of the right to health in the context of palliative care. First, involves availability of palliative care services and products used in pain management without discrimination. 

Second,  it’s also accessible and affordable besides offering good quality services. 

To effectively provide palliative care,  a facility requires skilled medical personnel, requisite and approved drugs such as opioids for the control of pain, hospital equipment, safe water and adequate nutrition.

For successful palliative care, the facility should observe medical ethics to earn the respect  besides ensuring  the services offered therein are culturally acceptable. 

In Kenya, there are various Hospice and Palliative Care services centres  among them the Baraka Medical Centre, Nairobi Hospice, AIC Litein Mission Hospital, MP Shah Hospital – Cancer Care Centre, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital – Palliative Care Unit housed in the Oncology Department – AMPATH).

While it commendable that all these institutions exist and are offering much needed services to the increasing number of cancer and other terminal ailments patients, it is important that the government and other stakeholders in the health industry ensure Hospice and palliative care facilities have enough funding, formulate policies, guidelines, pathways and protocols for proper access  to palliative care. 

There should also be a push for advocacy and awareness at the public and institutional level. -The writer is a communications consultant at P&L Consulting and Youth Advocate. - [email protected]

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