Applications of Palliative Care during Covid-19

So far, the focus has been on death anxiety; the helplessness which doctors and patients feel when Covid-19 progresses … increasingly, a new complication is adding to the burden on doctors and patients—that of not knowing how to manage the physical and mental pain

With such little information on Covid-19 and its treatment, people suffering from the disease are naturally feeling heightened anxiety. Doctors too, feel the pressure when a patient progresses from mild to severe symptoms. While new symptoms are being discovered, managing physical and mental pain remains challenging. This article highlights the distress doctors are facing during this pandemic as they don’t know how to alleviate the physical and mental pain. This is mostly because in India, modern pain management was introduced in the curriculum only in 2019.
Doctors are also unable to comfort patients through touch because of the need for personal protective equipment for the safety of the healthcare workers themselves. To address the concerns of doctors, Pallium India, in collaboration with PalliCovid Kerala, began an interactive course in palliative care a few months ago. The course introduces doctors to apply the principles of palliative care for Covid-19 patients while also providing a platform to voice concerns and share experiences. Palliative care, which was previously associated only with Cancer or AIDS has found great application in providing comfort to COVID patients.
Dr M.R.Rajagopal, founder-chairman of Pallium India believes that doctors must communicate compassionately and honestly. Everyone deserves to know the truth about their health so they can plan accordingly. Doctors’ forums are also helping healthcare practitioners deal with their own mental stress.
Treatment has started taking into account pain management to some extent, but we are still far from making an individual’s right to control their own life a priority. Relief for pain also comes from having choices and information about your life
Ventilator care for Covid-19 has also raised questions as to whether this expensive intervention is really helpful as the chances of recovery appear low. While Covid-19 patients can draft a living will refusing treatment in case of coma or terminal illness, there are no reported cases yet. This is probably because of the swift progression of the disease or because they are already on a ventilator. In these scenarios, it is crucial for doctors to present all options when a ventilator may not benefit the patient.
COVID may not have a cure yet but communication and pain management can reduce helplessness and anxiety among both the patients and the healthcare professional.

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