Palliative care has gained momentum in Lithuania with the publication of the first doctoral thesis on palliative care. Professor Arvydas Šeškevičius, President of the Lithuanian Society of Palliative Medicine, explains some of the key findings.
In 2007, when palliative care as an independent branch of medicine was established in our country, the development of practical palliative care gained pace. Hospices started establishing palliative care departments and delivering home care. At the same time, studies on palliative care were initiated in colleges and universities. The students there became interested in palliative care – they started writing bachelor’s or master’s theses.
When Žaneta Valiulienė entered doctoral (PhD) studies in nursing at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, she started working on a scientific topic ‘Health Problems of Palliative Care Patients with Oncological and Heart Diseases and their Associations with Spirituality’, which I supervised. The duration of the doctoral studies was four years and during this period Žaneta analysed 150 palliative patients with neoplastic diseases and 150 palliative patients with cardiac diseases. The study showed that patients with neoplastic diseases most frequently experienced physical problems: physical weakness, pain, hiccups and fecal incontinence. Patients with cardiac diseases most frequently complained of fatigue, dyspnea, chest pain, insomnia, and urinary and/or fecal incontinence.
Concerning social issues, oncological patients indicated that they mostly cared about assistance and communication with the family, as well as having a person to whom they could tell their feelings and experiences. Good social relationships were enhanced by the feeling that the patients were needed by the family. Patients with cardiac diseases indicated that they mostly cared about financial issues and good relationships in the family.
Patients with neoplastic diseases were found to have the following mental health disorders: marked anxiety, a lack of internal coherence and difficulty accepting the disease. Cardiac patients were more frequently depressed. Older patients more easily found inner peace, compared to the younger ones. Compared to men, women with neoplastic diseases more frequently felt the presence of God and found strength in faith to fight the disease. The same applied to female patients with cardiac diseases.
Patients with lower levels of education less frequently demanded spiritual assistance and the Holy Sacraments than patients with university-level education did. Male patients with neoplastic diseases more frequently disregarded the Ten Commandments, and yet they more frequently demanded a priest than female patients did. Most cardiac patients firmly believed in salvation through Jesus Christ, and found hope in prayer. Depression was less severe in practising believers with neoplastic diseases, and practising believers with cardiac diseases less frequently complained of pain and anxiety.
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