Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

What is Palliative Care?Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Palliative Care

Mains level : Psychosocial impacts of the covid-19 pandemic


The newscard talks about palliative healthcare which may help when the world is reeling under this most unexpected and unprecedented pandemic, COVID-19.

Palliative Care is a promising approach to counter the psychosocial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. We can use this as an example to quantify the measures required to improve mental healthcare infrastructure in India.

Social sufferings caused by the pandemic

  • COVID-19, because of its unique nature and magnitude has brought in its wake, not only physical illness but more of emotional and social suffering.
  • These include- fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loss of loved ones and social distress such as losing jobs and income, inability to move freely to work and other places, frustrations, staying long hours at home and other hardships, all leading to psychological disturbances for many.

What is Palliative Care?

  • The literal meaning of the word ‘palliate’ is ‘to alleviate pain — physical and emotional’, meaning, relief of suffering. ‘Suffering’ literally means ‘the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship’.
  • It is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with a life-threatening illness.
  • It involves prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.
  • It is part and parcel of treatment for any patient for any disease at any stage, for any age. It is simply a ‘whole person’ approach to improving health in any patient.

A promising remedy

  • ‘Palliative Medicine’ is a medical speciality, which involves the treatment of pain, breathing difficulty and other distressing physical symptoms caused by chronic and life-limiting diseases.
  • It also addresses the psychological issues of both patient and family, with the sole aim of improving the quality of life. It is most beneficial when started early in the disease trajectory.
  • It is also a form of supportive care, giving that extra layer of support a patient needs, to alleviate suffering, alongside disease treatment even in acute illness.
  • In the present scenario, in addition to what physicians are toiling with to cure patients, and the government and health care policies and strategies, palliative care can play a supportive role.

Supportive role

  • Distressing physical symptoms like pain, breathing difficulty, restlessness (delirium) and others can be well relieved or palliated with medicines in consultation with the specialists.
  • Similarly, skilled counselling is an integral part of the palliative approach.
  • It helps address the psychological, social and spiritual issues, which both patient and family are experiencing in the present scenario.
  • There is a way of responding to their fears, anxieties and to questions. They rarely need antidepressants when we acknowledge their emotions as normal.

Conclusion

  • Active listening is by far the most important part of counselling.
  • This care can be availed of from psychologists, specialists in palliative medicine, as well as those from medical organisations who have the expertise and willingness to render their services.
  • Hence, Palliative care is the reinstatement of the humane aspects of medical care and is complementary to all medical specialities, a common thread running through the total care of all patients.

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