Palliative Care knowledge is for those of us who have relatives and loved ones with life threatening illnesses, true? No. It’s a misconception; nonetheless, that forbids many in society from accessing information on the issue. Palliative care is everyone’s business. This is true especially because we will all lose loved ones and relatives and will eventually also die. As such, gaining knowledge about end of life care is important for all of us.
Based on this, hospices and palliative care units the world over provide training opportunities to anyone interested in the issue. At Kenya’s premier hospice, Nairobi Hospice, a group of over two dozen non-health care professionals are the latest to benefit from palliative care training. The group is taken through the basics of palliative care training such as pain management, care for children and the elderly and how to handle persons dealing with grief, loss and bereavement.
“It is our duty as care providers to understand the dynamics and cultures of the families of the bereaved that we are dealing with. This is very important so we can fit in during those hard times and give the necessary support for these families while respecting their beliefs and customs,” says Dr. Brigid Sirengo, Nairobi Hospice Chief Executive Officer tells the participants as she takes them through the grief and bereavement bit of the training.
With cancer racing up the list of killer diseases in Kenya, the participants are also trained on the causes of the diseases, the various treatment options available and the latest developments regarding the treatment and statistics of the disease in the country. HIV& AIDS is another disease whose latest statistics and trends are provided to the trainees as it still affects millions of Kenyans directly or indirectly.
The non-health care professionals (volunteers) training takes place biannually with the hospice keen to target as many people as possible. This ensures that palliative care is demystified and more and more people are reached by the message. Lynette Kitui, a medical social worker at Nairobi Hospice, says, “This training helps trainees to learn how to take care of patients. They are equipped with knowledge and skills, in some cases, on how to provide care to persons with life threatening at home. Everybody needs to undergo the basic training for palliative care so we can have a society that cares for its sick.”
For the trainees, the motivation to take part in the training stems from various reasons, including but not limited to wanting to give back to society; being prepared for any eventuality; focus on volunteering in their communities, and in hospices and palliative care units around them; and curiosity about what palliative care entails. Tom Kamau, a university student and a part-time volunteer at Nairobi Hospice, says he was moved by a story he read in the local dailies about the suffering of cancer patients countrywide. “After I read that article I knew that I had to find a way to help those in need. I have been volunteering at the hospice here for two months now and when I heard of this training, I had to take part as I feel it is tailor-made to satisfy my curiosity on the issue of palliative care.”