We are going through a rough time due to COVID-19 pandemic. In this critical time the responsibility of our counsellors has increased, as has the anxiety and stress level of our patients and caregivers. Due to the lockdown and social distancing, the counsellors were asked to be in regular touch with and, care about their patient’s emotional and mental health through telephonic counselling.
Here is what our counselor Garima has to share about her experience during Covid-19 Pandemic.
Interviewer: Define your roles and responsibilities during lockdown?
Counsellor Garima: I work in CanSupport as a counsellor. Our work entails reducing our patient’s anxiety and help them cope with the stress that is caused by cancer. In the initial months while we were hearing about the virus through news channels our organization was proactive to start preparing to deal with the situation. We were asked to explore how to continue our work if there is a lockdown. For fulfilling this purpose, our coordinator came up with this idea of providing telephonic counselling to our patients. This idea doesn't only fulfil the needs of our patients but also helps us to keep up with the norms of social distancing. It is also a way we can reduce the possibility of getting the virus or spreading it.
Interviewer: Share your experience of telephonic counselling.
Counsellor Garima: According to me, it is a very effective and much needed tool for our patients and their caregivers in these rough times. Telephonic counseling gives our patients a strong ray of hope and a feeling of affinity during the crisis. It gives them a feeling of having someone by their side in these difficult times. My responsibility as a counsellor has increased in the wake of this pandemic as patients and their caregivers feel more vulnerable, anxious, fearful, lonely and stressed. We provide them with a listening ear and ask them to share their emotions and feelings with the same empathy shown during our home visits. We identify their issues and concerns, acknowledge them and try to resolve their problems. I always tell them that “WE ARE JUST ONE CALL AWAY” from them. It is my duty to provide them with information and a good understanding about the virus and why it is important to follow social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining hand hygiene.
But as we all know everything comes with its pros and cons attached to it, the same goes for telephonic counselling. Sometimes we receive harsh comments from the other side but being a professional counselor we have to deal with it with politely and with empathy. Overall, it's a great initiative started in our organization.
Interviewer: Were you able to solve any particular issue of our patient?
Counsellor Garima: Due to Covid-19 pandemic, there are physical, emotional, financial and spiritual issues faced by our patients and their families. Most of our patients belong to lower income group. They are already struggling with cancer and, now they have to struggle for their basic necessities of life. As a palliative care worker, I coordinated and collaborated with other social health care services to fulfil their basic needs besides counselling them on phone. I helped some of our patients in getting Ration support and also managed to arrange transportation facilities for few patients, so that they can reach the hospital for their scheduled treatment by coordinating with CATS ambulance services.
Interviewer: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. How has it impacted you as a Counsellor, has it made a difference in how you work and how you think it will be in the coming years?
Counsellor Garima: Telephonic counselling is completely a new experience for me. Earlier I never thought that telephonic counselling can be as effective as counselling face to face, but this pandemic taught us this. Since the day the lockdown began, I started doing it on daily basis. I thought counselling can only be successful and effective if we meet in person but now my perception about it has completely changed. I realised it can be effective even through a phone call. Our patients felt better and believed that they had someone who is still there to solve their problems. In short, it’s a completely new experience for me as a palliative care counselor and, I am honoured to be a part of it.