Author: Arifa Anjum, Staff Nurse & Shafiquejjaman Saikot, Research Assistant
“A few years ago I lost my mother and sister in a boat accident on the river. My husband died a few years after the marriage. My younger daughter was then 4 years old! In this situation, I was emotionally broken inside. I have 2 daughters. After losing everything, I started my life in a new way with my daughters as a Palliative Care Assistant in the Compassionate Narayanganj project.
“I cross the Shitalakshya River and join my duty every day. After coming to Palliative Care, I used to see the sufferings of the patients from very close and forget about my own sufferings. When patients forget the physical pain and feel comfortable, I get a lot of peace of mind. I forget all the weariness of the day; get the motivation to work the next day.
“Coming to work in Palliative Care, I found my peace of mind, which I have not found anywhere else!”, expressed by Nadia Sultana, Palliative Care Assistant from Compassionate Narayanganj project.
The role of Palliative Care Assistants (PCA) in establishing Palliative Care in Narayanganj City Corporation (an informal settlement near Dhaka) is undeniable. A Palliative Care Assistant does all the physical care of a patient such as bathing, wound care, bed changing, assistance in exercise, catheter care, bedridden patient care, and much more. Palliative Care Assistants are not only doing these things themselves, they are also explaining and teaching these issues to the caregiver of the patients so that patients are not deprived of these services in the absence of them.
In addition to physical services, Palliative Care Assistants are also playing a significant role in the psychological, spiritual, and social aspects of the patients; notable tasks include giving extra time to lonely and vulnerable patients and even communicating with them outside of working hours, listening to patients’ grievances, talking to neighbors and community leaders to support them socially and financially.
Before training with the Compassionate Narayanganj project, the Palliative Care Assistants didn’t know before how to serve a dying patient. Especially physical care like bathing, wound care, bed changing, assistance in exercise, catheter care, and bedridden patient care was completely unknown to them. Besides, they did not have the right idea about mental, social, and spiritual care. At the very beginning of the project, before joining the work, they’re given the 6-week Basic Certificate course for Palliative Care Assistants organized by the Department of Palliative Medicine, Centre for Palliative Care, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. That’s not the end. Later also various training programs and practical classes were organized for them. We are arranging classes and examinations for them every month so that they do not face any problems while serving the patients. We’re now witnessing the COVID-19 pandemic. Training program for Palliative Care Assistants during COVID-19 is also organized so that patient services are not disrupted in this pandemic.
One of the Palliative Care Assistants from Compassionate Narayanganj, Lamiya Akter Tanni said, “I understood nothing about patient care before. I was terrified when I thought about the wound care and the care of the bedridden patients. I was always afraid of being able to serve them. Now I can take proper care of a patient, I’m now able to overcome my fears as well. I actually get a lot of peace after serving the bedridden patients. In addition, I must say, Palliative care has taught me to be enduring.”
“Compassionate Narayanganj” is a pilot project funded by UK Aid Direct. It is a collaboration between Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) and the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) to ensure the availability of palliative care services in the community.