These days there are so many World Days. Insert a word between World and Day and there! Not all those days matter to all. Except for some. Like today.
Today, October 8, 2022, is World Hospice and Palliative Care Day.
Palliative care is the branch of medicine that is about care beyond cure. It helps one live in pain-free comfort, with dignity, until death. And offers solace to the family that must live through the dying and beyond.
That may make more sense if you or someone dear to you is suffering. Or is dying. When the only hope left is for some quality of life (some peace, no pain, sufficient comfort, dignity retained) until life breathes. Quality of life is something that matters to all of us in every stage of life. Most so in the last stage.
I am fortunate to have two friends in professions that work to provide quality of life in different ways. Dr Priyadarshini Kulkarni is a palliative medicine specialist and the founder of Ease and Comfort. Lovaii Navlakhi is a certified financial planner and transitionist, and the founder of International Money Matters.
What has money got to do with palliative care? Or with quality of life when you are in no position to earn?
We will let them answer.
Dr Priyadarshini Kulkarni
“I know a family that has just two aging parents at home. They have multiple problems and are totally dependent on others for every little thing. They prefer to be at home. Among an array of people employed to help them is one person whose only job is to be with them and keep an eye on them. This person has no training as a caregiver. Yet, this help alone is costing them more than ₹50,000 every month. Imagine the total spend! How many families can afford that?”
“When we think money, we tend to focus on the quantity. The more we have, the happier we feel. I think what is more important is what your money is doing for you. Is the quantity of money you have giving you the quality of life you want? That is why responsible financial advisors first understand what you want to do in life, before working out the most prudent way to invest your money to help you reach those life goals.”
“Treatment of a major disease like cancer will drain a lot of money. As dementia progresses there will be an increasing need for constant care. It is not always about palliative or end-of-life care. As life expectancy lengthens, as more and more families turn nuclear, there is also an increasing need for independent, geriatric care. It is a long wait. That does not come cheap.”
“Insurance is important, but your health insurance policy may stop supporting you after a certain age. Your best bet when you grow old is your younger self, what your younger self wisely put away all those years ago.”
"In most cases, the role of palliative care is to ease pain and provide comfort. But what often hurts the most is the loss of dignity. There was a very successful entrepreneur, who was once the king of his domain. He was now helpless, terminal. He wanted to know if it was possible for me to speed up the end. What was unbearable for him was to have his wife and daughter-in-law, the only family he had at home, take complete care of him as he just lay there. He did not want to be at the mercy of others. The problem was solved by handing over all care to medical professionals. Fortunately, the family could afford that. How many of us can?”
“Parents are so eager to educate their children, get them married and set up a home for them that they start saving right from the time their child a born. What they forget is to provide for themselves. By the time they realize that, it is too late because the cost of care is always rising. They end up being what they never wanted to be—a burden on their children.”
Quality of life can mean different things to different people. Even for the same person, it can mean different things at different times as life goes through its inevitable phases and transitions.
We do not want to talk of death. Nor are we comfortable talking about money with family. We cannot escape either, death or money. Between the two, why not plan the reality that we have more control over—money?
Palliative care helps you live as well as possible until you die. And it preserves dignity by respecting one’s life till the end. Financial planning can facilitate this, for oneself and for others.
Maybe it is time for a couple of name changes. Let’s change financial planning to life quality planning. And let us celebrate today as World Quality of Life Day.