Palliative Care

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What We Do

SMHF has promoted palliative care programs through research grants, training of medical personnel and public awareness and education. Our programs are planned and coordinated by the Nippon Foundation (TNF) hospice committee, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara as the Chairman. Palliative care should not be limited to cancer and AIDS patients or exclusive to “end-of-life” patients. SMHF strongly believes that palliative care is for “individuals with all known diseases and their family members, and encompasses physical, psychosocial and spiritual relief of pain and suffering”. It is; a total and holistic care for all people, accessible at any time and from any location where support and care are needed.

Beginning of Palliative Care

Compared to the Western countries, the history of palliative care in Japan is new. The first hospice was opened at Seirei Mikatahara General Hospital in 1981, followed by Yodogawa Christian Hospital in 1984, and the first stand-alone hospice, Peace House Hospital, was established in 1993. In 1990, the Ministry of Health Labor, and Welfare introduced medical service fee for patients in Palliative Care Units (PCUs) which adhere to certain standards and disposition requirements of the staffs. This encouragement led to increase in numbers of hospitals with PCU; however, the main treatment for life-threatening disease such as cancer remained surgical. It was not common for patients to receive palliative care which provides physical, psychosocial and spiritual relief of pain and suffering for a long period of time. In such circumstance, Japanese government enforced the Cancer Control Act in 2007. In this Act, “Reduction of burden among all cancer patients and their families and improvement of quality of life” and “Palliative care from the early phase of treatment” were raised as its primary issues. It was considered a landmark event for the development of palliative care that national policy values on improving quality of life for patients.

Correct Understanding for More People

Although interest in palliative care is growing with the progression of aging society and increase in cancer deaths rates, yet negative images of hospices and PCUs are deeply rooted among the general public. Under this circumstance, for 10 years from 1999 to 2008, SMHF held seminars called “memento mori” (“Remember to die” in Latin), collaborating with TNF and The Life Planning Center to expand correct understanding of palliative care. To date, the seminar has been held at 30 locations all over Japan and more than 30,000 people had participated. In the meantime, DVDs of these seminars are lent to medical staffs for training purpose, schools and homes for moral education.

Aiming for the Enhancement of Palliative Care

For the enhancement of palliative care in Japan, SMHF launched research grants for medical staffs in 1998. Currently, support measures extend to nurturing and enlightenment of palliative care staffs, public awareness, enhancement of patients’ quality of life, research for the improvement of home palliative care, and overseas training for palliative care staffs. Up to now, 49 palliative care staffs have attended overseas training from 1998 to 2010 (15 in USA, 10 in Canada, 15 in Australia, 10 in UK, and 2 in Singapore).

Developing High Quality Medical Staffs

In recent years, increase of needs for palliative care in the society faces challenges, due to lack of high quality medical staffs. Palliative care requires not only medical knowledge, but also understanding of psycho-sociological issues, communications skills, and teamwork. To fulfill these requirements, SMHF has carried out induction training for doctors and nurses engaged in palliative care, for the improvement of quality of care. As of 2009, 44 doctors and 1,109 nurses have completed those induction trainings. Also, as a follow up, “Hospice Doctor Training Network” and “TNF Hospice Nurse Network” have been set up, holding annual workshops and exchanging information among members for mutual support. Furthermore, SMHF sends out information through newsletter to the latter members, supports short-term overseas trainings, and also engages to further massive network support.

Support for Pioneering Activities

Keiko Kimiwada fund was established in 2005 by the family of Ms. Kimiwada who died from a car accident just before her long-cherished dream of nurse debut. SMHF supports organizations with nurses engaged in pioneering activities in the field of palliative care. This fund is based on donations made by Ms. Kimiwada’s family to The Nippon Foundation “YUMENO CHOKINBAKO”, with selection and administration managed by SMHF.

New Movement – Hospice for Children

In 1982, “Helen & Douglas House.”, the world’s first children’s hospice was established in England, Though children’s hospices spread through Canada, Germany, Australia, and the U.S, only a fraction of medical professionals in Japan recognized its significance. At this, SMHF held a study meeting on Hospice Palliative Care of Children and Families in February of 2008, introducing overseas cases and launching discussions on palliative care for children in Japan. In April of the same year, “The Japan Network for Hospice and Home Care for Children” was established by pediatricians from all across Japan, launching a full-dress engagement in structuring model of palliative care for children in Japan. Currently as of 2010, efforts made for the establishment of children’s hospice with respite care, provision of short-term care program for children with illness in order that their families and caregivers can take a short break, are seen in various regions in Japan.

For All Individuals Confronting Illness

SMHF will continue to support not only patients with specific diseases, but also all individuals confronting illness, for the enhancement of their quality of life through total and holistic palliative care programs.