Paediatric Palliative Care: From Theory to Practice

Palliative care for children is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as the active total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family. South Africa has made great strides toward increasing the number of home based care workers with knowledge of children’s palliative care so that children and their families can receive the care they need.

Pearl Mphuthi, FNB Fund Manager says, “Palliative care for children represents a special, albeit closely related field to adult palliative care. Paediatric palliative care and the training thereof is something that has greatly improved in South Africa. The FNB Fund is committed to assisting its beneficiaries wherever it can, and St Nicholas Bana Pele in the Free State have done phenomenally when it comes to the training of paediatric palliative carers.”

St Nicholas Bana Pele is based in Mangaung in the Free State and focuses on providing children’s palliative care awareness training. To this end, they have a five day Children’s Palliative Care (CPC) Course within different urban and rural communities.

Rikus Buys, CEO at St Nicholas Bana Pele says, “Effective paediatric palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources. It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centers and in children’s homes.”

At Bana Pele, home based care workers are trained to assist in the total active care of a child as well as to give support to the family. A large portion of their training focuses on how to alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, and social distress.

“The greatest need of children is to have a good support system. Each child needs a plan and children need to be part of the plan. It is very important to form good relationships with the parents, even if it means visiting patients in their homes after hours. The team approach needs to include carers and the family,” says Buys.

Monnapule Nkwadipo is a home based care worker that attended the five day training course. She says that she feels empowered, and can help a child, and the family that needs palliative care.

It is important that not only the child, but also the household be supported and educated via on-going counseling and health promotion when there is a sick child in the family.

“Children are so important in our lives and to society as a whole. When I started working   with children, I realized that we CAN make a difference in the lives of our children one at a time. The value of a care worker helping a child in need of palliative care is immeasurable. We all need to do our utmost to empower care workers to make an even greater difference in the lives of the children they touch on a daily basis ,” concludes Buys.