In the midst of battling advanced prostate cancer, Mr. Munshi Ram Bhasin’s health declined, leaving him frail and powerless. Sister Hema Clara Singh, a compassionate nurse, vividly remembers the last time she visited his house. She sat with him, held his hand, and shared a meal, bringing a moment of laughter to his life. Despite his illness, Mr. Bhasin started eating a little more, but eventually, life took its inevitable turn. The family received a condolence letter from Dr. Savera, a Senior Palliative Care Physician, offering support and a personal visit if accepted.
Cancer, whether metastatic or not, affects not only the patient but also those around them. Breaking the news to the family that it’s time to bring the patient home for dignified care is a difficult task for doctors. The Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC) recognized the importance of comprehensive cancer care, including palliative care, to provide support from prevention to the end of life.
For years, RGCIRC has been providing home care services to terminally ill patients. A dedicated team comprising a doctor, nurse, and counselor visits patients in their homes, offering medical assistance and emotional support. They address symptoms, provide medication, monitor vital signs, dress wounds, and educate caregivers. The team becomes a confidante, clinician, and friend, accompanying patients and their families on the challenging journey.
Emotional and mental challenges accompany the disease, and the home care team stands as partners, offering care until the end. RGCIRC remains committed to providing free home care services, as envisioned by its founder, KK Mehta. The late Mr. Mehta emphasized that even if the hospital lacked funds, patients should receive medicines at home. Although financial limitations pose challenges, RGCIRC aims to restore and expand this vital service.
Palliative care, including home care, is a costly program. Dr. AK Dewan, Director of Surgical Oncology at RGCIRC, envisions a robust palliative program consisting of hospital care, home care, and hospice services. He highlights the need for dedicated palliative wards and pain clinics within the hospital to ensure sustainability. Engaging with hospices and providing rotating doctors and trained nurses can be alternatives to expand palliative care services.
The Department of Supportive and Home Care Services at RGCIRC currently offers pain management and counseling to caregivers and bereaved families. Their vision is to initiate palliative care earlier in the patient’s journey, requiring additional resources and support. Dr. Savera encourages patients to reach out for any need, aiming to provide holistic support until the end.
In her own home, Sister Hema nurtures numerous plants, finding joy in caring for them. As she tends to them, she reflects on how she can extend the same care to her patients, understanding their pain on a deeper level. Sister Hema’s dedication and the heartfelt efforts of the RGCIRC team illustrate the importance of compassionate end-of-life care for cancer patients, reminding us of the significance of supporting and comforting those facing life’s greatest challenges.
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