Psychosocial Support to Patients Suffering from Paediatric Cancer
Reports suggest that, 60,000 children suffer from paediatric cancer in India, of which only 1 out of 10 receives complete treatment. Presently, cancer care is offered as a super-specialisation only at the tertiary level across India. Every year, more than 5000 children travel to Mumbai for cancer treatment. The cost of treatment is often too high, leaving families either homeless or hungry during the course of the treatment. Unhygienic living conditions further aggravate the disease, perpetuating the vicious cycle, eventually leading to worsening health outcomes or abandonment of therapy as a result of draining resources.
With the help of the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, the St. Jude India Child Care Centres aim to bridge this gap providing complete holistic care to underprivileged children battling chronic illnesses such as cancer. When the children return from the hospital after their treatment, in addition to a clean and safe place to stay, they need activities to help them relax and de-stress, deal with their illness as well as help them receive their treatment with a positive attitude and in a more effective manner. The activities undertaken include:
- Counselling – Services are offered to families to help them deal with the psychosocial difficulties that concern the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in their children.
- Education – Since these children are unable to attend regular school, the goal is to keep their minds actively engaged while they are on treatment. The programme support includes theme-based activities, drama, art, craft and educational trips to local sites and museums.
- Staff training and capability-building – To motivate its staff to raise their aspirations and improve their skills with professional training as per the need of the staff, the learning programme is conducted via field, forum and role plays. All core staff members are supported by regular training regarding bereavement and death related counselling.
With the aim to provide clean, safe and cost-free accommodation to children and parents undergoing treatment for chronic illness, the St. Jude India Child Care Centres, has now spread out to 79 units across Mumbai and is developing a 12-unit centre in Kolkata.
With the support from the Foundation, the institution has been able to provide psychosocial and education support to around 2000 children through a pool of trained care givers.