Difficult questions, simple answers!

Resource person: Sister Shakila Murali

Oh my dears, why are you all looking so serious! Well, life is not a bed of roses, is it? Sigh. Taking care of my brother who has cancer has been taking a toll on me too. But you know what, on one of my visits to the hospital with my brother, we met this lovely sister in palliative care who had answers to all our problems! So, if you lovely lads taking care of your loved ones in their last days have questions to ask, I can definitely pass them to her! Trust me, sister Shakila is God-sent. So what are you waiting for?! Ask away! 

My dears, I sense that the tone of the magazine has become really serious. Well, well, life is not a bed of roses, is it? Sigh. I, myself took care of my husband who passed away due to cancer 3 years ago. I know how difficult it can get to take care of someone in their last days. I knew that you were missing your old aunty for a piece of advise or two. So, shoot.


1. LexiAmma, our doctor says that my grandfather wont live for more than a month or two. He has a lot of complications but he is adamant on going home. I am very scared and I do not think we can manage him at home. What should we do?

My dear sweet machi. How sweet of to care for your grandpa so much. It must be very difficult but, most people would want to spend their last days at home. There is nothing wrong about it. I would actually suggest that you respect his wishes and take him home. It also improves the quality of life as your grandpa will be more comfortable in a familiar environment with lesser chances of infections and no restriction of visitors. The overall cost of care will also be lesser. All you need to do is learn a few things to take care of him. While at the hospital, you can learn about medication administration, nutrition management including feeding techniques, bed sore prevention, aspiration prevention techniques from the wonderful nurses. Gather all your resources such as air mattress, nebulizer, adjustable cot, oxygen cylinder and get contacts of home-care nurses available near your home in case of emergencies. Home care is very much possible. Do not worry about not being able to take care. God bless you.


2. LexiAmma, my daddy has very bad mouth cancer. Since last few months, he is having very very bad odour and the room is also smelling very badly. We are not able to even go near him. Since he is bed bound and not working, finances for treatment has also become very difficult and we are not able to regularly afford perfumes and mouthwashes. What to do?

Oh my baby. Such hard time for you and your family. This is difficult but common problem, you know. Here are some tips!

1. You simply need lots of mouth wash. I know they are costly. So, here is the secret formula to make really good cost-effective mouth wash at home. Take 500ml of drinking water and add one table spoon salt. Boil and cool the water. Now add 2 pinches of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and also add juice from half a lemon and your mouth wash is ready! You can ask the patient use it before and after meals atleast.

2. Chewing pineapple chunks is also useful as a good cleanser. If the patient doesnot have teeth, keeping 1 tsp pineapple juice in the mouth for a few minutes also helps.

3. Moisturizing the oral cavity with any vegetable oil (coconut/gingelly/mustard), particularly on the tongue will prevent it from becoming dry and coated.

Also, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your doctor. They sometimes give Metronidazole which work like magic bullets, you know.

Also, for the foul odour in the room; first try to keep the windows open and allow good ventilation. You can try putting some activated charcoal (2-3tsp) under the cot or in the corner of the room. If you can’t find activated charcoal, you can burn a coconut shell and use it! The room can be cleaned with diluted perfume or lemon grass oil. Even the patient will feel better with this!


3. Aunty, my mother loves my father very much. My father has been detected with advanced stage cancer and is currently receiving end of life care since 6 months. My mother is always looking tensed, confused and frustrated especially whenever she has to take care of him at home after discharge. I am in different city to attend college. Can you please tell me how I can help her?

Oh, my little one. I donot understand God’s ways many times. There are many reasons why your amma must be feeling like this. You need to talk to her and try to understand her. Sometimes, the protocols and medications can be very confusing. You can help her by understanding these and help her use pill-boxes for easy administration of medication etc. More importantly, she also needs family support to be able to handle the stress. It is important that she is also given breaks once in a while to go to a temple or visit a friend where she can share her feelings. I am sure this will make her feel better.


4. My mother has late stage cancer is currently not even able to swallow properly. Doctor has asked to be careful while giving water because it can go into her lungs. Sometimes, she is looking very weak and I want to do somthing. Can you help please?

Beta, how hard it must be to see all this. I have a simple solution for this-honey. You can keep giving half a spoon at a time. Unlike water, it is very thick, so it’ll slowly go through the food pipe and not rush into wind pipe. So no aspiration and all. It is also natural, healthy and full of calories. Other options are placing glucose powder with salt or ORS powder under her tongue.

If she is taking only liquid diet, add soup to the menu. For vegetable soup-add soya bean for protein. For non-vegetarians, grind cooked meat to extract juice and add it to rice kanji/porridge. To increase the fibre, multigrain porridge can be used. Again, instead of sugar, honey or jaggery can be used.

This should give her some energy. Try this beta, he’ll feel better.







Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here