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Palliative care

Pallium (Latin) means a coat. The essence of palliative care is to coat a dying man with cordial attention and love. An incurably ill person suffers a lot if he realizes his hopeless state. But it is not only a physical pain closely connected with cancer which can be somehow eased or completely removed with modern painkillers. But this is something more - it is rather a so called "total pain". This sort of pain was named 50 years ago by a pioneer of the hospice movement and the founder of the first modern hospice, Dr Cecily Saunders.

Total pain is a mixture of physical and polymorphic spiritual pain. The awareness of deteriorating health and galloping emaciation, becoming more and more dependent on other people, the growing inability to move, decreasing circle of friends, loneliness on the rise, the fear of facing the end of existence, the fear for the family especially children and the awareness of many unsettled matters constitute the core of the burden that the dying man has to face.

Palliative care, in this way, is neither giving painkillers nor professional medical diagnosis with perfect care. Palliative care becomes a try to realize what a patient feels. It is also doing patients some ordinary favours - sometimes unexpected ones. It also takes accompanying patients and talking to them about difficult subjects, not dismissing them with : ''Don't worry -everything's going to be OK''. The talks about life and death and what comes next. It is also the last sacrament, a promise to pray for the patient at the hour of passing away ( if the patient and his relatives wish that). Therefore, it takes something more to work here as a doctor or nurse. A psychologist, priest and numerous volunteers also contribute a lot, working hard here for the dying and for those who have to keep on living in pain.

Palliative care concerns the whole patient, together with his soul


And that is how ''pallium'' is created - the coat of cordial attention and love over the dying: not to let them feel lonely, to make them realize they are still being respected and loved no matter what colour or race they are or if they are educated or not. Thus, a hospice is neither only a building nor a team of professionals serving the incurably ill people. According to Prof. Jacek Łuczak, a pioneer of hospice movement in Poland - ''A hospice is not a place because sometimes it is hard to talk about a certain place bearing in mind hospice indoor care units. It is a philosophy, a way of dealing with passing away people who are under our care''.

ks. Wacław Leśnikowski

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