Patients suffering from chronic or terminal diseases like cancer, HIV, renal failure undergoes a lot of pain because of nature of their disease. The pain can be effectively managed with appropriate analgesics and opioids. It improves their ability to function and the positivity of outlook towards the treatment and its outcomes. Though pain is an important symptom of all end stage diseases, symptoms like dyspnoea, delirium, fatigue and weakness are common sources of physical distress. Palliative medicine helps to reduce these symptoms and also helps them to live as comfortable as possible with the illness. This will help to improve the overall quality of life of the patient, as well as that of the family members.


Psychosocial care is one of the important aspects of care for patients suffering from life threatening illnesses. When faced with such an illness, patients and families go through a lot of emotional turmoil. The first question that comes to their mind is ‘Why me?’ It is imperative to understand the illness and adjust to it.
The family too has their own set of worries. They are concerned if they have the ability to take care of the loved one. What if anything goes wrong, how much do they tell their loved ones about their condition, how do they manage their mood swings and irritable behaviour and the most dreaded scenario of all, coping with the eventual death of the patient and living without them.
These questions require open and honest communication between the patient, family and the health care professionals to be effective. Social workers and / or counsellors are people who work closely with patients and families to identify, assess and explore the fears and anxieties faced by them. They empower the patient and families so that they are able to make their own decisions regarding treatment and setting realistic goals. This enables them to gain control on their lives. Social workers can assist them to give expression to their thoughts and feelings. Patients and families become empowered to face the illness upfront. They offer intervention and guide them through the various phases of the illness. Family members have to deal with grief and loss after their loved one has passed away. Social workers can give them the necessary support and them through it.


Handling patients with chronic illness needs a fundamental change in the approach to patient care. As a cure may not be a possibility, the care of a patient is priority. The standard approach is to first identify all of the problems through diagnostic testing and then attempt to solve each of the biological problems. Whereas, the need now is to take into account what is known about the illness, what is inevitable versus what is modifiable, the prognosis, and patient and family preferences. The long term care of chronic illness brings with it its own challenges with regard to medical management and support which is expected of the primary care physician and or treating doctor.
The changing societal needs and an aging, chronically ill population requires a basic change of approach to relieving suffering and improving quality of life for the whole person and his or her family. For this, the doctors, nurses and other health professionals need to be equipped with the basic understanding of palliative care, mainly pain management and communication.
There is great need among health professionals to understand the basics of palliative care. The primary care doctors care for a lot of chronic patients and lack the basic skills to handle pain and symptoms. There are a lot of uncomfortable questions that need to be addressed. With proper training in pain and symptom management, as well as communication, doctors can provide quality care to their patients. Social workers and counsellors working in medical settings require training in communication skills as well as in handling the psychosocial issues of patients and family members.


Palliative care is a new and upcoming medical specialty. Though the need for such services is very high, not many people are aware of these services. People living with and dying of chronic diseases need to know that there is hope even when the disease goes beyond cure.
They need not live in pain and suffering. They need to know that they can have control over their decisions about treatment if they are well informed. Family members of such patients facing difficulties while handling patients can benefit greatly from awareness programs. Awareness programs also help to demystify certain conceptions regarding medications and place and choice of treatment.


Medical Institutions
Healthcare NGOs