Linstening and Supporting

Written by  Angelo Giubelli

New ways to help both patients and their families during illness.

Nowadays the physical diagnosis of a tumour opens the way to combatting the illness with ever more efficient cures compared to several years ago, but this is still not enough. Hence the development of psycho-oncology: the aim is to observe the implications of cancer on emotional life and interpersonal relations. In 1992, with the help of the Arcipedale S. Anna the Psycho-Oncology Service was set up inside the Psychiatric Clinic at Ferrara University; the service is directed by Professor Luigi Grassi who is full professor in Psychiatry at Ferrara University and, presidente of SIPO, the Italian Society of Psycho-Oncology . What are your aims for the immediate future? “Our mission – explains professor Grassi – is to show hospitals how to be more active as regards mental and social suffering in the cancer field. The clinical objective is both to prevent and to treat, looking at the various manifestations of unease, such as anxiety, panic and depression, that may occur during the course of a neoplastic disease; of course these symptoms can occur both in the patient and their relatives. The emotional problems are evaluated, the risk factors analised; these might be an absence of support from the family or a tendency towards depression or a resigned approach to the situation. At this stage the appropriate solution is offered. We aim to improve the quality of life for the patient in all phases of the illness, helping the family to adapt to the situation both during the illness and if their relative does not survive, while grieving. A centre specifically set up to deal with loss is about to open in the University’s Psychiatric Unit.”

Without doubt, a service that is complicated to organise. How is it structured and how semdoes it work? “The staff comprises psychiatrists and clinical pscychologists who have studied psycho-oncology, together with a datamanager; the service carries out its work with the Clinical Oncology Unit at the University College Hospital “S. Anna” in Ferrara, as well as with other Units in the same hospital (surgery, radiation therapy, haemotology, gynaecology). Work is being carried out, together with the Neuropsychiatric Unit/Department, on a programme to deal with the difficulties of children and adolescents who have lost a parent due to cancer or who have an ill parent. Then there is the complex business of assisting children suffering from cancer themselves and their families; we have also begun work here.” The ADO hospice (Assistenza domiciliare oncologia) is now fully operational, less than six years from its construction. What is the significance for the president of ADO, Daniela Furiani, of the hospice complex in via Veneziani 54? “The hospice – she explains – demonstrates just how much this type of support can help patients and their families. The Association also helps patients in their home, guaranteeing the same services that are available inside the centre. Doctors, psychiatric assistence, and well prepared auxiliary staff are all available free of charge”. What type of patients do you deal with in the centre? “Not only terminal cancer patients, but also people suffering from other incurable diseases”. How many people are involved in the running of the service? “There are four doctors, four nurses, an assistant, a doctor specialised in psychology and a spiritual assistant for the home visits. Here in via Veneziani, with twelve twin bedded rooms, one for each patient and relative, we have the same number of operators.” Who covers the costs? “Public organisations, bank foundations and the good-hearted citizens of Ferrara!” Independently but in connection with both ADO and the psycho-oncological service the Association for Human Support Giulia has grown up. With what end? To give support to children who are seriously ill and their families, where and when necessary, on an every day level, both during their stay in hospital and while they are at home.



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