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  • 2a Papanikoli, Sidera Halandri, Athens | 13 Fragon, Thessaloniki
  • Athens:+30210-6463367 | Thessaloniki:+302310-510010

PEDIATRIC PALLIATIVE HOME CARE

What We Do

Pediatric palliative care is a type of an organized, holistic care which aims to meet the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of children and adolescents who are living with or dying from advanced life shortening illness.
It includes the provision of medical, nursing, psychosocial and spiritual support to the child or adolescent while concurrently supporting the family members who are affected by the challenges of the serious illness.
In Greece, “Merimna”, is the only provider of pediatric palliative care services since 2010, through the “Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service”.

The main purpose of our Service is the provision of palliative care at home, for neonates, children or adolescents up to 18 years old, who have a life-limiting illness, (for which modern medicine has no conventional therapy), where the child’s condition remains stable, or worsens and the child eventually dies.
Our goal is to optimize the quality of life for the ill child or adolescent and his/her family and significant others as well as to ensure the child’s right to a dignified death.

To see information leaflet for the Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service please click here.

  • Medical and nursing care of the child or adolescent.
  • Psychological support of the child or adolescent.
  • Support for all family members, in accordance with their needs and wishes
  • Spiritual support from a church representative, as desired by the family.
  • Collaboration with the child’s school in order to provide support to teachers and schoolmates for the duration of his/her illness, as well as during the bereavement period, as needed.

The Service is available to educators who would like to receive counseling support during the course of the child’s illness, and/or during the bereavement period of the school community. A Psychologist can communicate with the teacher to discuss issues regarding the effective support of the ill child, their siblings and their classmates who are affected by his/her illness.

The Service is available to health professionals who work in public or private organizations and who wish to consult with our specialists about the support and care of children and adolescents with chronic and life-limiting diseases, or who may wish to refer children or adolescents to our Service for end of life care.

The “Childhood and Family Bereavement Counseling Center of Merimna” provides psychological support to bereaved parents and siblings through individual sessions, or through specialized parent or sibling support groups for as long as required.

Which children and families can be cared for at home?

Our Service works with families who have a newborn, child or adolescent up to 17 years old, who is living with a life threatening disease, for which modern medicine has no conventional therapy. The types of life-limiting conditions that the children, who are in Merimna’s Pediatric Palliative Homecare service have, fall into the following 4 categories:

  • Life-threatening conditions for which curative treatment may be feasible, but for which the child has a poor prognosis(for example cancer, organ failure of the heart, liver or kidney).
  • Conditions requiring long periods of intensive treatment aimed at prolonging life, but where premature death is still possible (for example cystic fibrosis, HIV, cardiovascular anomalies, extreme prematurity).
  • Progressive conditions without curative options, where treatment is palliative after diagnosis (for example neuromuscular or neurodegenerative disorders, progressive metabolic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities).
  • Irreversible, non-progressive conditions with severe disability causing extreme vulnerability or health complications (for example severe cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, brain or spinal cord injury).

What are the necessary conditions for a child or adolescent to be referred to the Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service?

In order for a child or adolescent and his/her family to be included in the Service, the following basic conditions must be met:

  1. The child or adolescent (0-17 years of age) must have from a life shortening disease for which modern medicine has no conventional therapy), where the child’s condition remains stable, or worsens and the child eventually dies.
  2. The child’s home care must be the wish and choice of the family’s and the child’s (if possible depending on his/her age and condition).
  3. The parents must be able to take an active role in their child’s home care, with the appropriate training and support from the palliative homecare service’s staff.
  4. The administered treatment at home has a palliative intention (pain relief and symptom control) and is not meant to be therapeutic for the basic disease that the child has. The primary goal of every intervention is for the improvement of the quality of the child’s life.

What are the benefits of Palliative Home Care?

  • Provision of a better quality of life for the child or adolescent and his/her family by making it possible to live through this difficult period of the illness with respect, dignity and love in their own familiar environment among their loved ones.
  • Active participation of the parents, so that they can take a central role in the care of their child with the proper guidance, training and support from Merimna’s educated staff.
  • Personalized support of every member of the family (parents, siblings and others important persons in the child’s life).
  • The Creation of positive memories from having had the ill child at home, while ensuring dignified end of life care conditions. It has been shown in scientific studies that this kind of support significantly helps the family to adjust to their child’s loss and ease their pain.

Does the Pediatric Palliative Homecare Service focus only on dying children?

No the Service is for every child/adolescent with a life-limiting or life-threatening disease, and not necessarily at the terminal stage. This includes children with advanced stage tumors, spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA1), tumors, Batten Disease, encephalopathy with multiple complications, etc.

Which geographic area does the Service cover?

All families living within the area of the Athens and Piraeus Municipalities are eligible for services.

What kind of health care professionals work in the Pediatric Palliative Homecare Service?

The Service is composed of pediatricians, nurses, a psychologist and a social worker, all with special training in pediatric palliative care. The team consults regularly with a highly experienced palliative care pediatrician in the UK, and arranges meetings through skype whenever special issues, regarding the care of a child in the service, arise.

What are the operating hours of the Service?

The basic homecare services are provided during the weekday working hours (9:00-17:00). However there is emergency nursing care available outside of working hours, depending on the condition of the child and the needs of the family. There is also 24/7 telephone consultation available. These calls are answered by a professional healthcare member of the team.

What happens, in case there is a need for special equipment at home?

When special equipment is required at home, parents are trained to use the equipment by the pediatrician or the nurse of the team. In case the necessary equipment is not provided through a social security organization, the Service can sometimes (depending on availability) lend it to the family.

Will the hospital’s or the child’s primary care doctors continue to check on the child’s medical condition?

The ongoing communication between Merimna’s health care professionals and the child’s primary care or hospital physicians greatly facilitates the transition of care from the hospital to the home, as well as the support of the child or adolescent at home. A hospitalization of the child is possible in cases where there is difficulty in symptom management at home or when the parents are unable to cope with their child’s needs and desire an admission to the hospital.

What is the difference between home nursing care and palliative homecare?

Home nursing care refers to the exclusive provision of medical or nursing care (like taking blood samples, treatment administration, dressing changes) and is not provided by Merimna. Palliative home care is a holistic approach to the care of the seriously ill child and their family which includes a combination of knowledge and skills that are applied physically and psychosocially. The main goal within this framework of care is the improvement of the child’s or adolescent’s quality of life and the avoidance of aggressive interventions.

Is palliative care the same as euthanasia?

Palliative care is not comparable to euthanasia. In no way does palliative care facilitate death. Furthermore, palliative care does not promote heroic means or ineffective therapies that may help to avoid death and physical organic deterioration. Palliative care focuses on symptom relief and on the improvement of the quality of the child’s life, which sometimes results in the prolongation of life and a sense of well-being despite the seriousness of the child’s condition.

How much do the provided services cost?

Merimna provides all Pediatric Palliative Home Care Services free of charge and relies exclusively on donations and sponsorships from private citizens, companies and foundations.

How can I learn more about pediatric palliative care?

There are several myths about pediatric palliative care that do not correspond to reality. The Hellenic Society for Pediatric Palliative Care of Children and Adolescents has published a text entitled “Myths and Reality” to ensure that people are provided with correct information and to avoid prejudice and misinformation (Myths and Realities).

Our service is staffed by an interdisciplinary team of health professionals (pediatricians, nurses, and psychologist) who collaborate with other specialists, depending on the needs of each family.

Our Interdisciplinary Team

Spyridoula Tsaroucha, Nurse, Administrative Director
Anastasia Papazoglou, Pediatrician, Scientific Director
Alexia Geradi, Nurse
Vassiliki Kalliani, Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Antonia Moutafi, Pediatrician
Maria Frangou, Secretary

External Associates

Dr. Renee McCulloch, Pediatric Consultant, Palliative Medicine – Great Ormand Street, Palliative Care Unit
Marina Servitzoglou, Pediatrician-Oncologist – Oncology department Athens General Children’s Hospital “Pan & Aglaia Kyriakou”

Mother: “I was very relieved at that period that I had the support of Merimna. My anxiety was lessened. I said…”now I will learn how to take care of my child”. I trusted my child in the hands of the professionals of: Merimna”.
Father: “They help you to grt through this transition period, because it is very difficult to realize that you are losing your child.”
Mother: “It is very, very important what the professionals of Merimna do….and all this without any charge, which in these times, even if you have the resources, you are totally blocked and think: “Where can I go?”, “How can I go?”, “What am I going to do?”… It is a great relief indeed.”
Father: “They (the members of the professional team) have an answer for almost everything, answers that make sense, because most doctors, especially in such cases (of an upcoming death), try to confuse you with their medical knowledge. We received very straight-forward, clear and candid answers and we particularly appreciated that.”
Father: “They were always there to answer, they never seemed to be bothered…the psychological support was essential.”
Father: “Merimna found us. And they found us at a time of our life when we were very vulnerable. Why? Because you see that your child has needs of things that, until then, were unknown to us. You see the absence of support from the State, especially when you really need it.”