Life might be cut short by an incurable disease but a better understanding of how to make the journey meaningful with love and care can help ease the sufferings of the patients. This is what is known as palliative care. It can help a child with terminal cancer and their parents deal with the medical and psychological aspects better.
Such facilities are rare in the country and whatever services available now are Dhaka-centric, while as many as 12,000 children are being diagnosed with cancer every year. One in four children with cancer does not survive five years after the diagnosis.
Palliative care can improve quality of their end-of-life experiences and support families even after patients’ death, said medical experts, social workers and parents yesterday at a seminar and workshop organised by Hospice Bangladesh, with support from Aastha Hospice and World Child Cancer, in the capital’s Gulshan.
All healthcare facilities combined -- private and public -- have only 18 beds for palliative care of paediatric cancer patients. “It is far from what’s necessary,” said Prof Zohora Jameela Khan, of paediatric hematology and oncology department at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Palliative care is often termed “low-tech and high-touch”, she said.
The care focuses on healing rather than curing. The caregivers -- through conversations, counselling and listening -- help patients and their families accept death and prepare for it, said Shahinur Kabir, founder director and palliative physician of Hospice Bangladesh.
Recollecting her experience with a patient named Pavel, Zohora said his parents were willing to understand what their son needed while undergoing treatment at ASHIC Foundation’s palliative care unit in Dhanmondi.
Pavel knew, like many children with cancer, that his days were numbered. His wish to have a family trip to Cox’s Bazar was fulfilled with help from ASHIC, a charity working to support children with cancer and their parents.