Palliative Care - FAQs
Palliative care is available to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for patients with illness that is chronic and/or advanced. What distinguishes palliative care services from hospice care services is that because it addresses pain and other symptom relief, palliative care can be provided at any stage during an illness. Palliative care addresses the patient’s physical needs, but also his or her emotional, social and spiritual needs and those of the family and other loved ones.
Palliative care is for any patients of any ages with a debilitating chronic disease or life threatening illness from the point of diagnosis, regardless of the prognosis. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of an illness and can be provided concurrent to curative therapies and/or life prolonging treatments. Some of the common medical conditions of people receiving palliative care (and in many cases, curative treatment as well) include: cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic lung disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and advanced dementia.
Palliative care services can be provided in the patient’s home; in community-based settings like assisted living and nursing and rehabilitation centers; in designated palliative care units/suites; and in any hospital unit/room.
Benefits of Palliative Care
Patients receiving palliative care have a plan that:
- Involves the patient in discussing all options and making decisions about their care;
- Supports the patient, his or her family, and loved ones in making the most appropriate decisions;
- Provides relief from pain and other symptoms;
- Integrates emotional, social and spiritual needs into the care plan;
- Offers support to help patient live as actively as possible; and,
- Develops support systems for the patient, the family and loved ones.
When to Request Palliative Care
Palliative care plans differ from one patient to another, and depend on the needs and wishes of the patient, family members and loved ones. Each care plan includes the following components:
- Pain and symptom management: The palliative care team will identify a patient's source(s) of pain and discomfort, and provide treatments to offer relief and reduce suffering. In addition to medication, treatments may include acupuncture, massage therapy and stress reduction techniques.
- Emotional and spiritual support: Palliative care focuses on the whole person, not just the illness. The team addresses emotional, social, psychological and spiritual needs.
- Family/loved ones/caregiver support: The palliative care team will explain treatment options to ensure the patient has the best possible quality of life during illness. The patient, with family and loved ones, can determine the goals of the care plan.
UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown: Maddie Steffens, RN, Palliative Care Nurse Coordinator, 410-778-3300.
UM Shore Medical Centers at Dorchester and Easton: Michele Williams, MSN, BSN, RN-BC, Palliative Care Specialist and Clinical Coordinator, 410-822-1000, ext. 5881.