The wise old saying by Leo Buscaglia confirms the true reality of making palliative care dream come true in other sub-county hospitals in Meru. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Palliative care aims to improve the quality of persons living with palliative care needs. “We provide palliative care services for all in need at a location that is convenient for our patients”, said Gladys Mucee, the team leader at Meru Hospice in Meru County. This was during a palliative care champions meeting convened by KEHPCA held on 18th of November 2020 at the Meru Hospice.
The meeting included representation from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association, Meru Hospice, persons living with palliative care needs, and community health volunteers. This was an opportunity to share feedback on palliative care service satisfaction by recipients.
“I became a volunteer at the hospice after seeing the difference these services made in my life. The hospice took care of my late grandmother in the most humane way. She was my sole caregiver and when she became ill, the hospice eased my burden as I took care of her. I am forever indebted to them.” Said Mr. Muriungi. He has since become a champion among the youth advocating for palliative care and cancer care. He feels there is a need to engage the youth in cancer advocacy and in turn address myths and misconceptions.
“Meru hospice helped me accept myself after being diagnosed with a number of non-communicable diseases. I wondered why God had forsaken me then but I now understand that He still cares for me. I have been a friend of the hospice for over 10 years now and also supporting them in my capacity as a community health volunteer (CHV) in Meru county. The passion for my community keeps me going as I support my community unit in palliative care aspects.” Reported Marion. She also emphasized that she felt loved when the hospice team visited her at home during illness. Despite the fact that she is battling several conditions including Cushing’s disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, Marion is now keen on encouraging others in similar challenging situations that all is not lost. She jokingly says she feels under 18 of age at heart and that she still has a lot of potential to influence change at her capacity. During a stakeholder’s forum in Meru, she called on the Meru County government to ensure that the medicines required for such unique conditions are also available since it costs her an arm and a leg to purchase her medication.
The value of working with CHVs is evident as they help in supporting patients and families and communities as well as linking them to health facilities as need be. One, Mr. Mutua, a CHV from Muthara region, has been exemplary in taking the initiative to ensure patients travel from their homes to the hospice or Meru Teaching and Referral hospital for care and treatment. The CHVs have received palliative care training through the AMREF LEAP platform and this has greatly improved their understanding of the care.
The Meru County Government is very supportive of palliative care integration in the county and has promised to ensure the service is prioritized.
Mary who is a cancer survivor has received care from the Meru hospice and is currently pursuing a degree in palliative care so that she can offer these services to others in need. She appreciates the fact that the hospice has natured her career growth.
KEHPCA endeavours to continue supporting the integration of palliative care services across the country and hence improve access to care. We call on all the audience reading this piece to look for a niche and be part of this palliative care movement, being everyone’s business.