Cancer is preventable in some cases and curable in many others, if detected early. Unfortunately in our country patients often go to the doctor when the disease has advanced. Tata Memorial Centre, the nation’s premier cancer care institution established its Palliative Care Services unit to look after the needs of these patients and to reiterate that the end of active treatment is not the end of life.
The Palliative Care Services Unit was established in the Tata Memorial Centre in 1996 and over 15,000 patients have been Cared for since its inception. Its Home Care Services was launched in 1998 to extend the Care to patients at their homes in Mumbai. In 2002 paediatric Palliative Care was added to the services of the unit. Young children with a recurrence of cancer are treated to keep them pain free and active.
The Unit comprises of dedicated doctors, nurses, psychologist, social workers and volunteers. As the size of the team has increased since the early days of the unit, so have the outreach and support services. The team provides free medical, nursing and psychosocial Care for patients in their own homes as well as emotional support and guidance to members of the patients’ families to help them cope with the crisis. The team stays in touch with the family even after the death of the patient, providing bereavement support.
Palliative Care Services of the Tata Memorial Centre continues to increase the scope of its services to patients and their families. Every year the unit counsels and treats approximately 1400 adult and 200 pediatric patients who are no longer on active curative treatment. The number has been on the increase as more and more parent units now avail of the services. The number of in-patient referrals has also increased over the year. The number of follow-up patients seen is approximately 3700 and the numbers have been increasing over the years directly pointing towards the improvement in the standards of Care provided by us.
The Home Care team comprising of social workers, nurse and volunteers visits approximately 1100 families every year. This gives the unit team increased opportunity to interact with patients’ and their families on their ‘home ground’. The team thus learns of the major problems, particularly financial, that the families face. When the breadwinner of the family suffers from advanced cancer, the future of the entire family is in jeopardy. The Palliative Care Services Unit extends its support to the family in many ways. Help is provided in the form of food grains and provision for daily use. The home Care service also provides bereavement support to the relatives of our patients who depart under our Care. We are the first to start such an initiative thus providing complete holistic Care to the family completing the circle of Care provided to our patients.
When provision of Care at home becomes difficult we refer our patient to Shanti Avedna Sadan, the oldest and only hospice catering to the city of Mumbai. We have an active liaison with the hospice which provides the best hospice Care to all patients free of cost thus helping the patients by caring for their physical problems with no financial burden added on to them.
The palliative care approach is not disease specific; rather it is applicable to all life- limiting illnesses for which there is no cure. Hence it is important to disseminate training in palliative care to health professionals from varied backgrounds.
Till date we have completed one day training program at around 17 nursing as well as Medical Colleges wherein we have trained around 1250 students into Palliative care.
The response from all the colleges has been overwhelming and we also now plan to cover 20 more new colleges.
Looking at the progress of the Ratan TATA Project we also plan to now:
The second Saturday of October is celebrated world-over as World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. It is an occasion to create public awareness about Palliative Care. The Unit organizes different programmes every year which spread awareness and entertain.
Palliative Care integrates the physical, psychosocial and spiritual Care of patients suffering from advanced cancer. It assures the best possible quality of life for these patients, providing relief from pain and other distressing symptoms. Palliative Care affirms life and strives to make the last days of the patient as comfortable as possible. The team looks after the physical, emotional, practical and spiritual needs of the patients, assuring that they live and die with dignity.