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Till Death Do Us Part

Many medical experts highlight that compassion is as important as clinical expertise for terminally ill patients. After spending a lifetime tending to the needs of their families, these terminally-ill patients deserve the proximity of their loved ones more than that of hospital staff.

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Consider these staggering facts:

  • India is home to around 87.6 million people above the age of 60 years.
  • With life expectancy on the rise, this segment of population is expected to swell to about 300 million – more than triple – by 2050.
  • Due to rampant rise of lifestyle-related ailments, non-communicable diseases and communicable disease, a significant segment of this population will require critical medical care.

Despite these worrisome figures, discussion on ‘end of life’ is limited to conference halls and boardrooms. The media furore around the subject has heightened owing to the recent bill on passive euthanasia and various cases of aged people addressing their wish for a peaceful death to their family and even to the President. But at homes, this subject is still a taboo. Despite death being a reality for the terminally ill patients, family members avoid discussion on the subject till it is too late. Many of us believe that long-term steps, such as Mediclaim or Life Insurance policy covers for self and family, are sufficient preparation. Although they do support the family financially in case of medical emergencies but when the eventuality of death looms near, finances become just one of the many concerns. In such unfortunate circumstances, the family is more concerned about making the process most comfortable for the terminally ill patient by ensuring best quality care and proximity of loves ones.

This concern can only be met through conversations around the reality of death. Conversations are key to help people accept eventuality of end of life. Acceptance can lead to discussions around possible solutions to make the patient’s remaining days easier for the patient as well as the family.

Many medical experts highlight that compassion is as important as clinical expertise for terminally ill patients. After spending a lifetime tending to the needs of their families, these terminally-ill patients deserve the proximity of their loved ones more than that of hospital staff. They would prefer the familiarity and comfort of home over a hospital to spend their last days. Family members of such patients need to have a dialogue with the patient to understand his wishes. Ensuring the patient’s mental well-being will shift the focus from end of life to ease of life for the patient. The patient’s mental and physical comfort brings relief and joy to the entire family.

So, before old age knocks on the doors of our lives and diseases take hold of us, it is best to discuss our preferences for addressing such situations with our loved ones. It is high time that we stop avoiding the issue and initiate dialogue on end of life preferences with our near and dear ones. Once we get past the challenge of accepting the reality of end of life, we can address the issue in a rational manner. Only when we bring the subject of end-of-life care out of conference rooms and into our living rooms, we will be able to ensure that our loved ones spend their last days in the warm familiarity of their home with their family and friends.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Vivek Srivastava

The author is CEO, HealthCare atHOME, India's leading healthcare solution provider.

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