Need of Old Age / Palliative care in India – UPSC GS2

Context: With the rise in non-communicable diseases, the requirement of palliative care is a must.
What is palliative care?
  • WHO defined palliative care as the active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment.
  • This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness.
  • The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
  • As per UN World Population Ageing Report:
    • India’s ageing population (aged above 60) is estimated to increase to about 20% by 2050 from 8% currently.
    • By 2050, the percentage of elderly people will increase by 326%, with those aged 80 years and above set to increase by 700%, making them the fastest-growing age group in India.
What are the problems associated with palliative care?
  • Lack of trained staff and healthcare professionals.
  • Restricted access to opioids for pain control.
  • Refusal to accept that there comes a time when one needs to work with the process of dying rather than against it.
Why does the need for palliative care arise?
  • Non-communicable diseases like cancer are rising these days. Presently, in India, 30 lakh people are suffering from cancer.  Of these, 75-80% are in the advanced stage and half of them die within a year. Yet, no more than 2% receive palliative care because of the paucity of service. With the corona pandemic, this count will further increase.
  • India is becoming urbanised at a rapid rate which has resulted in the breaking up of families into smaller units.
What should be done to improve the conditions of palliative care?
  • Trained professionals: Palliative care requires end-of-life conversations. So, there is a need for training professionals to work in a collaborative manner. People must also make a living will to designate a surrogate who can take decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.
  • Renaming: Rename palliative care and call it symptomatic care to make it more acceptable.
  • Treatment by specialists: There is a tendency to cut off relations once treatments failThe treating specialist should continue to involve family members whose advice and support are needed by the patient.
  • Rehabilitation of family members: Apart from the patient, the survival and safety of members left behind is also a concern that should be addressed, especially in the case of India where it is missed.

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