Caring for the Whole Person
Leprosy care involves many different aspects of medical treatment. Even after the disease is cured physically, treatment must be continued in order to care for the patient emotionally and spiritually as well as dealing with the social effects within the community. The Leprosy Mission Canada's partners provide each patient with the means to re-enter their community as independent men and women, able to earn their own living.
Below is a list of ways that projects supported by The Leprosy Mission Canada care for the whole person.
Increased capacity for hospital care
Leprosy patients may have many other medical issues. We are already working to expand the range of medical care available in each Mission hospital. The Leprosy Mission Canada's partners also train government and regional health care professionals in order to help them understand more about leprosy. In turn, this will help patients receive the care they need in a timely manner.
Reconstructive surgery is an important part of rehabilitation for many leprosy patients. Surgical procedures such as tendon transplants to correct clawed hands, nose reconstruction and eye operations to save the blinking reflex can all help the process. Surgery not only restores function to previously useless hands, feet and eyes, it makes a patient look normal again and lets them feel they can blend back into society without shame. Physiotherapy after surgery is also a vital part of treatment.
Low Cost Housing
Leprosy affected families are often the poorest of the poor. They may find themselves ostracized from their village, without a home or basic shelter. For some, their dwelling is a mud hut or cardboard box. In poverty stricken villages such as these, immune systems are low and leprosy spreads easily. Low cost housing provides a hopeful alternative.
TLM Canada’s partners have worked with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Participating in awareness campaigns with local service organizations in some countries to contribute funds and spread knowledge about the disease. A new house gives the family shelter and a new respected status while the advocacy brought on by such partnerships changes old attitudes and fears about leprosy; the families are usually accepted back into their community.
Advocacy and Raising Awareness
All TLM rehabilitation activities are based on raising awareness of leprosy so that age-old myths can be put to rest. TLM partners and staff ensure that each person affected by the disease receives all-embracing, holistic care. This includes working with the family and community to understand that leprosy is not to be feared and that it can be cured. Leprosy-affected people are most empowered when they are accepted back into their communities with a sense of pride, dignity and self-worth.
Artificial Limbs and Special Footwear
When medical care is sought too late, irreversible damage happens to limbs and amputation is necessary to save the patient's life. Artificial limbs are then made specially to fit each person. Special soft rubber footwear is also available and should be worn to prevent foot ulcers.
Prevention of Disability
If Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) is administered as soon as leprosy symptoms appear, there is no lasting deformity or disability. But a patient can still lose feeling in hands and feet and that’s the main problem. When there’s no feeling in a patient’s hand or foot, it’s all too easy to burn themselves on a hot pot or step on something sharp and not notice. Part of rehabilitation is learning to anticipate pain. Some patients may have to change their whole lifestyle to accommodate this new way of thinking – with the help of TLM and its partners.
In this photo, patients are learning to care for their feet by soaking them daily to help them remain supple. Leprosy inhibits the production of natural oils, making the skin dry and prone to cracking and ulcers.
Vocational Training is vital to most leprosy patients. It helps anyone who has to change their line of work to protect their hands and feet, such as farmers. It also helps young people who are not given a chance in life simply because a member of their family has leprosy. Training is often followed up by a loan to give a patient, or group of patients, the start they need to earn a living. Learn more about our Vocational Training Centres here.
Self-Care Groups/Loans and Savings Groups
Self-care groups are made up of leprosy-affected people with various disabilities who meet on a regular basis to encourage and support each other. The members are responsible to help each other keep up care to avoid further disabilities, such as ulcers. With support from friends in a self-care group, life with leprosy is more bearable. Self-care groups may also form a loans and savings group, supporting each other to earn a living after receiving a loan to start a business.
TLM is committed to all people affected by leprosy. People with this disease find themselves without choices, powerless to change their situation. TLM's partners help give them back a choice and encourages them to make decisions affecting their lives. During rehabilitation, the goal is empowerment - not dependency. Each person should be able to reach their potential as a valued and respected member of their community.
Even today, when we know that leprosy can be completely cured, many patients wait too long to get treatment or stop treatment before it can be fully effective. These patients are very susceptible to the damage leprosy causes. By teaching parents, children, teachers and health care workers, we can do so much more to stop the devastation leprosy causes.
For more information about where The Leprosy Mission Canada works and what kinds of care we provide to people affected by leprosy, please visit the Our Work menu of this website.