Mangalore's first standalone Palliative Care Unit/Hospice
MANGALORE: “How much do you charge for a song?”, an 81-year-old person with dementia asked a young volunteer, who was singing for the patients at Ave Maria Centre for Palliative Care at Vamanjoor some time ago.
When the young man replied it was free, the patient said: “OK, then sing two more songs for me.”
There may be humour in the incident but the reality was far more serious. The patient was one of 10 terminally-ill patients cared for at the hospice. Lavina Noronha, its director, narrated this anecdote to The Hindu on Wednesday.
The hospice has seven cancer patients, one with Parkinson’s disease, one with dementia, and one for rest and care. The staff at the hospice work towards making the lives of terminally-ill patients pain free, so that their last days are happy. The hospice takes care temporarily of bed-bound senior patients, Dr. Noronha says. The home is free and anyone is welcome, regardless of religion, class and caste.
While some patients pay, others pay nothing to the hospice which provides holistic care to patients with incurable, life-limiting conditions. Dr. Noronha says there are three types of families: those that do not care for the ill, those that care very much and another that wants to care but is unable to. Family members from the first category have asked them, “When will the patient die? I want to know as I will have to take leave from work.”
The hospice, which is maintained well, has doctors Jessica Serrao and Jessy D’Souza. Dr. Serrao, who takes care of the patients, says that helping relieve another person’s pain makes one’s life meaningful.
It also has two staff nurses, four health assistants, two housekeepers and one supervisor.
At the hospice, Dr. Noronha does the task of breaking the truth to the patients. She says that the patients are angry with their families and puzzled when they are brought to the hospice. They can see no doctors, no chemotherapy, and no radiation. “We tell them the truth and prepare them mentally to face the end. Priests (or the person appropriate for their religion) talk to them. Then, they are happy, there is no more denial. They are angry no more. But most painful is to tell a child,” she says. Every trimester, a “grief group” is held, where family members are counselled on dealing with a loss.
The hospice faces three challenges. “Staff and volunteers are always needed. It is difficult to retain staff as end-of-life care is tough emotionally. A person should have extra compassion as it is not about the money,” she says.
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Original article here by Renuka Phadnis in The Hindu, Mangalore Edition dated 19/5/2011