Elderly and chronically ill patients spend most of their time at home and are in need of regular care for their remaining lives. The concept of ‘total’ care with continuous support in physical, psychosocial, and spiritual spheres through institutionalized services such as hospitals and hospices is very difficult. The hospitals can at best offer a patchy service through which the patient and family has access to care for a few hours. The community approach is the only realistic model for achieving significant coverage and continuity of services for terminally ill.
To scale palliative care services into family and community settings where the need is greatest and largely unmet is the biggest challenged faced by palliative care specialists. In response to this essential public health need, SANJEEVAN (an initiative of Sri Aurobindo Society) offers palliative care training to school and college students with a vision to create awareness, sensitivity and responsiveness for the care of the elderly and dying in their families and community.
On January 28 and 29, 2017, Part I of ‘Students Initiative in Palliative Care’(SIPC) training for 47 students of Saradha Gangadharan College, Puducherry,
was conducted. The entire programme was mentored by students of Pondicherry University. This training included
• sensitizing the students about the need of palliative care and the importance of community participation;
• providing them knowledge about various ways in which they can contribute, such as participating in home visits, giving basic first aid or medicines, making the society around them aware through poster campaigns, street theatre, door-to-door distribution of pamphlets, etc.
• making them aware of the positive results in psychological and spirit
ual aspects of patient care with familial support and love;
• encouraging them to offer a support system to help patients and their families;
• enhancing quality of life and also positively influence the course of illness with activities such as meditation, painting, music, etc.
Part II of this programme was organized on February 11, 2017, in which 57 students participated. This session concentrated on ‘Communication’—with the patients, their families and the community at large. The session educated the student participants on how to communicate, the appropriate approaches, the methods to reach out to the largest number of people to address their concerns about palliative care. They were also helped to understand how to help patients, psychologically and physically.
While working on an action plan at the end of the sessions, along with serving palliative care patients, the students also showed considerable enthusiasm for team home care visits, creating a webpage and social media campaigns to generate awareness for this just cause, fundraising and creating and distributing publicity material in local languages to reach the grassroots of the society.