Working with the dying reveals two aspects of our nature…the first being our sense of compassion, which is bountiful and healing; not only for the patient and their family and friends, who too suffer, but also for our own self; for by practicing compassion, we are being kind to our self and fortifying our compassion. So in essence, by aiming to help others, we are healing ourselves as well. No wonder that the best palliative care professionals are persons who have undergone a lot of sorrow and suffering…and have evolved over the years to be better humans.
The second, and more primitive aspect of our nature, is the fear of death…it could be death in the sense of dissolution of our physical body or death of our ‘grasping nature’. We spend our whole lives acquiring relationships, money and fame…but little do we realize the fleeting nature of these acquisitions. Facing death in its raw and physical form while caring for patients, brings us face to face with our own ‘sense’ of mortality. And that is exactly where the confusion begins. For there are now no clear cut guidelines! What little scattered ‘evidence’ is there is refuted by science. Sadly, our minds have been programmed to ‘believe’ in science.
OK…now for a little task…you just have 10 seconds for this…name any three diseases of non-infective origin that has a cure.
Well you may now realize how ‘advanced’ our medical science has been over the last 300 years! What we have achieved by our ‘technology’ is to make the process of dying more prolonged, painful and undignified! No wonder, most health care professionals shudder at the prospect of having a ‘taste’ of their own medicine…and I yet to see a doctor or a nurse who would want to die in their own ICU!
I was in the same boat…a strong atheist. Working with the dying and for the reasons stated above, I started looking for answers…and I found them, which could satisfy an arrogant person like me. Little did I realize at that time that I was doing ‘Self care’!
The first step is re-learning to believe…with humility.
Remember, at least in our generation, how in our childhood we used to nestle in the laps of our parents and grandparents and listen wide-eyed to fairy-tales and other stories. Those are fond memories and I daresay that a part of our character too has been moulded by those experiences. Those experiences are ingrained in our memory as ‘good and soothing’…for we had believed!
I believe that death is comforting…blissful. You just have to be aware…being mindful!
I have ‘designed’ a ‘Retreat session’ on Self care based on these perspectives at our rural center in the tribal state of Jharkhand in India starting Jan. 30 2016, for a week. I intend to introduce you to your SELF in the retreat.
I have been pioneering the cause of palliative care in a resource-poor and virgin community in the tribal state of Jharkhand in India since 2006. Illiteracy, poverty, ignorance are the rule of the day. Most people do not have access to basic health amenities. Care of the terminally ill remains a low-priority issue with them. Death means a mouth less to feed – economics simplified!
Faced with such challenges gave me an opportunity to innovate focusing on resources that are available, accessible, affordable and acceptable to the community. I put in my personal savings to buy a land and then construct the first and only ‘Long term care facility for the Elderly & terminally ill’ in a rural setting. I realized that the Elderly are the largest group requiring palliation and combining care of elderly with palliative care helped to remove the stigma associated with hospices which are often seen as places of dying. I also learnt to focus on spiritual, psychological and social aspects of care, which are often neglected….and I found that the use of medications came down! Sadly now, we have no funding to support ‘staffing’ for the unit. We are in desperate need of funding to support staffing and a vehicle for our ‘home-care’.
– Dr.Abhijit Dam, MD, FCCP, FPM, MSc Pall Med(Cardiff)