Volunteering for a Fleeting life: Cancer and Palliative care

Posted by Radhika Narayanan on Thu, Apr 9, 2015  
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An insight into Palliative care

What could be more dreadful than to know that you’re life is towards its end, just a couple of months or days away. Every minute someone is dying somewhere around the globe due to an incurable disease. There are many who fail to receive a descent end. Towards the end of life, a patient needs nothing more than a physiological support that can relieve from mental stress, a care that can temporarily annihilate the pain and symptoms of the deadly diseases. Patients approaching their end only wish to have a quality life of comfort and care for that fleeting moment.

Palliative care is this multidisciplinary approach in medical science that aims at improving the life of people when no cure can be expected in diseases such as Cancer. The ultimate goal of a palliative care team in a hospital or hospice is to address to the physical, emotional and spiritual concerns of patients that arise at the advanced stage of any dreadful illness.

Challenges faced by Cancer charities into Palliative care

Palliative care can be provided by Doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and counsellors along with the usual curative care.  However Palliative care being a multidisciplinary approach includes:

  • Administration of medications
  • Counselling
  • Other diversified activities such as gardening, cooking, art and design that keep the patients engaged in order to comfort them emotionally
  • Spiritual care through prayer and meditation

As we see palliative care is round the clock job that requires the hospital or hospice staff to work beyond working hours to ensure proper support and care to the patients. Apart from the palliative care support, the health professionals in a hospital are involved with other healthcare concerns and administrative work. Hence the contribution of most of the doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the hospital cannot be expected beyond the working works.  The cancer charities involved with palliative care find it challenging to meet this growing demand due to shortage of staff. Most of the cancer charities rely on unpaid volunteers to meet the growing demand of palliative care, as they cannot afford to recruit paid professionals due to budget constraints.

The need to rely on volunteers doesn’t necessarily address the concern of these cancer charities, the reasons being not all are ready to volunteer for such a cause, rather reluctant to volunteer. These are those minor percentage which drawback due to lack of awareness regarding the cause, see no monetary benefits, or people who really want to extend that helping hand but are unable to locate an ideal platform to do so.

Why Volunteer?

People may volunteer for various reasons:

ü  To do good to people in the last hours of life and be that someone special in their lives.

ü  To put their skills into use for a good cause rather than utilising it to derive the usual monetary benefit.

ü  To expand their network

ü  To fill the career gap

ü  To gain valuable and life enriching experience by volunteering for such a cause.

ü  Especially those who are retired or on a job transition, volunteer to pledge their time and skills to do good to others and make themselves happy.

ü  Some volunteer since they’ve had a similar experience in their family and would like to extend a supporting hand to those who suffer from a similar situation.

And the list can go on. Nevertheless volunteers involved with palliative care in cancer charities are engaged giving all sorts of comfort and happiness to their patients to such an extent they also fulfil the last wish of patients to some extent and hence this kind of volunteering has a special meaning attached to it. Isn’t this a noble job of its kind? Why not pledge to volunteer for palliative care and bring out that human within you?


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