Empathy and Compassion in Palliative Care

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

Empathy, love, and compassion are keywords that come to mind or are associated with palliative care. These words are used especially when referring to caregivers, clinicians, physicians and the people who live with people with palliative care needs. Have you ever thought about how this applies to advocacy?

During the 7th International African Palliative Care Conference 24-26 August 2022 in Kampala Uganda, I heard a statement that made me pause and think for a moment. “Without empathy and compassion, you will be doing advocacy for nothing.” Dr. Zipporah Ali – Consultant at Zipporah Ali Consultancy and former Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) Executive Director. She narrated how she tried to reach a government official unsuccessfully for a few years when she started working at KEHPCA. She would go there almost daily on weekdays to try to have a conversation on integrating palliative care into Kenya’s healthcare system but she was ignored every time. One day due to an unlikely turn of events, the government official’s relative needed palliative care and Dr. Zipporah and the team at Nairobi Hospice attended to her. After the visit and attending to the patient, Dr. Zipporah Ali finally had a hearing from the government official.

The global palliative care fraternity comprises several hard-working, passionate devoted individuals who work tirelessly across the globe to push for equity in access to quality palliative care. Sometimes in the busyness of work and responsibilities, we may lose sight of empathy and compassion in advocacy which fuels our passion for the work we do. In a few weeks, we will celebrate World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) on October 8 2022 and the theme is Healing Hearts and Communities.

Advocacy for WHPCD 2022 includes a call for national strategies for the inclusion of grief and bereavement care, which are essential to support the healing process. Through our collective efforts, we will engage governments and policymakers on the importance of ‘Healing Hearts and Communities’ by recognising that death, dying, and grief, are inseparable, and that best practice palliative care includes grief and bereavement support for adults and children.

This will be an annual unified day of action in support of hospice and palliative care where we can exercise our empathy and compassion in our different spheres of influence and utilise our collective efforts to increase awareness that palliative care is a component of the right to health and is based upon a philosophy that supports communities to alleviate suffering.

So, what can you do?

  1. Show solidarity

Come up with an event big or small and join the world to mark this day. You can find resources and tools to help you with this and to generate ideas on the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance website https://www.thewhpca.org/world-hospice-and-palliative-care-day/resources-2022

Add your event on the global map to show unity and encourage others to take part in this here https://www.thewhpca.org/world-hospice-and-palliative-care-day/resources-2022

  1. Good Grief – share your community’s best practices

World Day 2022 will feature Good Grief – stories of compassion, experiences and innovations from communities worldwide that honour and bring healing and hope. Submit your Good Grief profile and photo or videos (if possible) showcasing your community’s successful grief support programs and memorialization initiatives to info@thewhpca.org and CC the Communications Manager at hkinyua@thewhpca.org

  1. Engage your community to participate in WHPCD

Coordinate an event with patients, families, and people who have experienced grief. Organise an event to draw attention to palliative care as a component of the right to health and invite people who have experienced grief to share their experiences.

  1. Record a short video

Create a two to three-minute video to encourage the government to support palliative care funding as part of building a stronger health system.

  1. Engage stakeholders

Send letters to the Ministry of Health in your country, WHO national and regional offices, health system providers, local clinics, and health professional bodies, calling on them to contact your national health representative to request support for palliative care under Universal Health Coverage.

Everybody seeks validation and people want to know that they are seen, heard and that they matter. As we continue to work toward a common goal of having palliative care services integrated fully into Universal Health Coverage to achieve equitable access to palliative care, let us be fueled with a deep sense of empathy, love and compassion. Thank you everyone for the work you do.

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully but also to live until you die.” Cicely Saunders.

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