Palliative Care

Background

As we attend to an individual’s needs when they are at the end of their life we should see the whole person and their social situation. It is only through this holistic approach that we can provide care tailored to the individual.

Every one of us may be a carer at some time in our life either looking after those closest to us or in a professional health care capacity.

One of the Trust’s main projects includes the identification of the needs of Lithuanians diagnosed with cancer as they try to live their lives to the full within the community. Some patients will not have a remission in their illness and will need end of life care. The relatives of these patients may also need support after bereavement.

It is our understanding that Lithuanian palliative care services have been developing for the past fifteen years but, due to lack of funding and other resources, the health professionals still feel a need to look to the UK where they find enthusiastic support .This support comes primarily as advice from organisations such as Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Choices and St. Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham near London.

A brief History of Modern Palliative Care

St. Christopher’s Hospice was conceived by Dame Cicely Saunders, the visionary founder of the modern hospice movement, who set the highest standards in care of the dying.

Hundreds of hospices in the UK and in more than 95 other countries are modelled on St. Christopher’s which was established in 1967.

After Lithuanian Independence was restored, Dame Cicely visited Kauno Slaugos Ligonine in Kaunas and was an inspiration to their dedicated staff. They have her photograph on a wall at their nursing hospital.

UK Support

Support and twinning of Kauno Slaugos Ligonine, Kaunas, with St. Luke’s Hospice, North Brent, England.

For many years now, St. Luke’s has supported the development of high quality professional palliative care in Lithuania. In February 2010, a team from Kaunas University, Kauno Slaugos Ligonine and other areas of Lithuania, once again visited St. Luke’s. Mike Coward, their CEO, is a British-Lithuanian Society member and he gave TTT initial introductions to these palliative care professionals.

Volunteering

TTT focuses on the voluntary sector and, here again, forward looking Lithuanian health professionals turned to the UK to see some of the best examples of voluntary support work.

Providing patient-centred palliative care for the terminally ill combines emotional, spiritual and social support with expert medical and nursing care. Well trained volunteers can play a very important role assisting the professionals to holistically support their patients and their patients’ relatives.

Having made contacts in Kaunas with the active palliative care sector, in June 2010 TTT arranged a visit to London by a small team of health care professionals who wanted to expand their knowledge of the contribution that can be made by volunteers.

The team visited St. Christopher’s Hospice, Marie Curie Cancer Care, St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hospice at Home and CYANA –a cancer patient support centre. These organisations showed how they run more efficiently and, indeed, would not survive without the valuable work of volunteers.

Next Steps

In October 2010, our close contact from Northern Ireland, Madeleine Mulgrew, will be in Lithuania for the third time and will address the Palliative Care Association at their Conference in Kaunas. Madeleine is Chairperson of Cancer Choices, which she helped to found. This is a cancer patient support centre serving rural areas in Dungannon, where a large number of Lithuanians have settled. Madeleine is also an experienced volunteer trainer and assessor with Macmillan Cancer Support and promotes the work of volunteers in all aspects of cancer patient support.

The Trust is also aware of work in progress to find funds and expertise, both professional and voluntary, to build the first purpose-built hospice in Lithuania. With this in mind, it is hoped to arrange a visit by the founders of this project to Antrim, Northern Ireland, next summer to see at first hand, a state of the art hospice which is due to open in Spring 2011.

Working with the professionals of the palliative care sector of Lithuania is a privilege – we value their open acceptance of our offers of assistance in introducing contacts with knowledge and expertise. The training of high quality volunteers may in time ease the work load of the professionals and add a new dimension to the holistic approach to end of life care, thus giving patients and their families the same support welcomed and expected by their counterparts in the UK.