Dr Priyadarshini Kulkarni is the Medical Director of Cipla Palliative Care and Training Centre, which has been providing free palliative care to cancer patients at Warje, Pune from 1997. Set up by Cipla Foundation, the Centre is one of the two training centres in Maharashtra recognized by the Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC). Dr Kulkarni has received advanced training in palliative medicine in Singapore and the USA. She has been practising palliative care for the last 12 years. Vijayakumar Kotteri talks to her.
You began your career as an anesthesiologist. What made you take up palliative care?
During my internship I took care of my grandmother who was suffering from lung cancer. I gained first-hand experience of the suffering she had to go through and the helplessness of the caregiver. Though I was learning to relieve pain during my 4 years as an anesthesiologist, palliative care offered a chance to get closer to the patient and the family. So I made the switch.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care, or palliative medicine, is a branch of medicine that deals with improving the quality of life of the patient, who may be suffering from a long-term illness. Palliative care deals with total pain. For example, when a person is diagnosed with cancer, there is shock. When treatment starts, the side effects add to the problem. The pain is not limited to the body. The patient is bothered about the future of the family. There is remorse about unfinished tasks. Some want to find solace in spirituality. Some feel isolated. We address the physical, emotional, spiritual and social dimensions of pain. We care not only for the patient but also for the family and the association continues through bereavement support.
When should one think about palliative care?
Anyone who is diagnosed with chronic illness that is likely to cause a lot of pain and compromise quality of life should be offered the benefit of palliative care right from the time of diagnosis. When pain and symptoms are under control, the patient is more likely to adhere to treatment. They can enjoy better quality of life. They regain their dignity, their love for their family and want to do all that they have always wanted to do.
What does Cipla Palliative Care Centre do?
We provide palliative care in cancer. We have served nearly 8000 patients and their families so far. We serve patients at our OPD. We admit them, if necessary. We go home and care for them, if they cannot come to us. We follow a unique family model of care, where we train one family member to provide proper care to the patient at home after discharge. We also have our OPDs at YCM, Sahyadri and KEM hospitals. Our team includes doctors, nurses, counselors, researchers and a very dedicated team of volunteers. All our services are provided at no cost.
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