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Palliative Care at Home

Merimna - Our Work

Merimna provides home-based palliative care for newborns, infants, children and adolescents up to 18 years old, who live with a serious and life-threatening disease, for which modern medical science has no conventional means of treatment, with the result that the child’s condition remains stable or worsens and the child eventually dies.

All of us at Merimna seek to ensure conditions that promote a Life with Quality and Dignity for the sick child, his/her family and those who are important in his/her life, in view of the likelihood or certainty of death due to serious illness.

Merimna, through the Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service, provides organized, holistic care that responds to the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of children and adolescents, who face complex and complicated symptoms/problems due to serious and life-threatening health conditions, while providing parallel support to all members of their families.

In Greece, Merimna is the only organization that provides pediatric palliative care since 2010.

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


Child and family care at home throughout the course of the child's illness

The multidisciplinary team of specially trained pediatricians, nurses, a psychologist and a social worker are there for children and families experiencing the challenges of serious illness. Members of the team make regular visits to the homes of families and there is also a 24-hour telephone support line available for the sick child as well as all family members.

Services are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

  • medical and nursing care for the sick child to provide daily relief from the pain and
    other symptoms experienced due to the illness
  • psychological support for the sick child, parents and siblings
  • support in meeting the social needs of the family (finding resources for financial
    assistance, assistance in various bureaucratic procedures, support and strengthening
    of the social network, etc.)
  • support for relatives (grandparents, uncles, cousins, grandparents, cousins, etc.),
    friends and classmates of the seriously ill child

Caring for the family during bereavement

During the mourning period, Merimna offers psychological support to all family members (parents, siblings, grandparents, grandparents) who are grieving the loss of a child, either through individual meetings or through participation in special support groups for parents and support groups for children.

Counseling to teachers/educators

Teachers who wish to receive counseling during the illness of a child or adolescent can contact our Service to discuss issues related to the support of the sick child, his/her siblings and classmates.

Caring for the child and his/her family during the final stage of the child's illness

Specialized palliative care continues to be provided at home as long as the family and/or the child wishes, even when death is imminent and the child is in the final stage of his/her illness.

Counseling for health professionals caring for children with life-threatening diseases

The Service is open to health professionals working in public or private institutions who wish to discuss issues related to, either the potential referral of children to our Service, or the management of their patients with complex and complicated problems during their hospitalization (both during the course of the disease and in its final stage), such as the management of chronic pain, dyspnea and other symptoms. They can also discuss with our team issues relating to supporting the whole family.


Cooperation agreements with pediatric hospitals and departments

During the years of operation of Merimna’s Pediatric Palliative Home Care service we have cooperated with most of the University and private pediatric hospitals and clinics that care for children with life-threatening diseases. In addition, Cooperation Agreements have been signed with the following specific hospitals and their departments:

  • University Oncology Hematology Unit of the Oncology Unit “Elpida”
  • Oncology Center for Children & Adolescents of the Private Children’s Hospital “Mitera”
  • A. & P. Kyriakou Pediatric Hospital
  • Neonatal Unit of the Alexandra Hospital
  • Penteli Children’s Hospital

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.

Which geographic area does the Service cover?

The Service provides home-based specialized pediatric palliative care to families residing within the municipalities of Athens & Piraeus.  However, for families residing outside these municipalities, the Service may provide Consultative Palliative Care in collaboration with the health professional(s) working with them.

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.

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, (e.g. advanced malignant tumor, type I spinal muscular atrophy, Batten disease). Palliative care in these children can be provided throughout the course of their disease and also in the terminal stage of the disease.

Will the child continue to be monitored by their primary care physician or hospital team?

Maintaining communication between the Merimna Palliative Care Team and the child’s primary care or hospital physicians greatly facilitates support for the child at home and therefore continues throughout the course of their care. Admission to hospital is possible in cases where either the parents and the child wish to do so or the Merimna team feel it is necessary, or if it is not possible to manage the symptoms at home.

If my child needs some special equipment at home, what should I do?

Insurance funds usually cover part of the cost of equipment needed to care for the child. In some cases where equipment is not provided through an insurance provider, it is possible to borrow equipment from Merimna, as long as it is available. Parents may be trained in the use of this equipment by the team’s nurse or pediatrician.

Is palliative care the same as euthanasia?

Palliative care is NOT equivalent to euthanasia. It does not in any way facilitate causing death. Nor does it promote heroic means and futile treatments that may be aimed at avoiding death but in fact cause greater stress (“suffering”) to the child and the family. It focuses on relieving and improving the quality of life of the sick child, which sometimes results in the prolongation of life and a sense of well-being despite the seriousness of the child’s condition.

What are the costs for the services provided?

Merimna provides all home-based palliative care services free of charge. It operates solely on the basis of donations and sponsorships from individuals, companies and foundations.

What is the difference between "home care" and "home palliative care"?

Home care involves performing only medical and nursing procedures on the patient (e.g. taking blood, administering treatment) and the professionals involved are mainly nurses.

Home-based palliative care is a holistic approach to the sick child and their family, involving a combination of knowledge and skills to provide physical and psychosocial care. It is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of trained health professionals who all TOGETHER design an individualized care plan with the main goal of improving the quality of life of the child and their family. Within the framework of this care, some simple medical and nursing operations are carried out (e.g. blood sampling, treatment of decubitus ulcers, wound changes, etc.) with the main aim of better understanding the child’s overall condition and relieving him/her.

Staff of the Pediatric Home Palliative Care Service

Dr. Tania Moutafi, Pediatrician,
Dr. Ioannis Drikos, Pediatrician,
Tzortzina Tsepani, Νurse
Dimitra Vasilakopoulou, Nurse
Dafni Aravani, Phychologist
Christina Skourou, Social Worker

Scientific Director

Chrysoula Lemonidou, Emeritus Professor of Nursing, Department of Nursing of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Secretary of the Board of Merimna


External collaborators

Kyriakos Martakis,Pediatrician specialized in Pediatric Neurology and Palliative Care, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Cologne Medical School & University of Gießen Medical School

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 get 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.”

Mother: To write about how much the Merimna Palliative Care team helped us, I would have to write a multi-volume book….the expertise of each team member in their field gave me the confidence that my child was in the best hands. With the right care we were able to elicit smiles and moments that without you we would not have had. It was very important for my child to not have to be hospitalized and this was only possible with the help of Merimna. You opened the doors for me so that I could have my child where she feels good. In my arms in our home. It is truly an invaluable asset…