Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care
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Palliative Care Medical Director Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, MD, provides information on what palliative care is and how we approach this care at UM Shore Regional Health.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress that severe illness can cause. “The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family,” Dr. Vaidyanathan says.
Patients being treated for these and other diseases may benefit from palliative care:
- Advanced dementia
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- Chronic lung disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Palliative care is also beneficial for the patient's family and loved ones. Patients receiving palliative care have a plan that provides support systems for all involved that meets emotional, social and spiritual needs.
When should palliative care be requested?
Palliative care plans differ from one patient to another and depend on the needs and wishes of the patient, family members and loved ones. To benefit the most from palliative care support, patients or loved ones should request a palliative care consult as soon as they receive a chronic or advanced illness diagnosis.
Patients of any age and at any stage in a serious illness can receive palliative care, and this care can be provided along with the curative treatment the patient may be undergoing.
Is palliative care the same as hospice care?
No. Palliative care services address pain and other symptoms and are available anytime during an illness, not just with end-of-life care that hospices provide. Palliative care can start as soon as a patient is diagnosed with a debilitating chronic disease or life-threatening illness, regardless of the prognosis.
Who provides palliative care?
Led by Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, MD, Medical Director of Palliative Care, our palliative care team consists of a highly-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists. We work with patients’ primary care and specialist physicians to provide a comprehensive, coordinated program of care.
Our team focuses on aligning medical care with the goals and values of patients and their families while improving quality of life. This combined approach brings well-rounded support to the patient, family and loved ones.
What types of treatments are provided in palliative care?
The palliative care team will explain treatment options to ensure that patients have the best possible quality of life during illness. Input from patients, family and loved ones is encouraged.
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.
Our care program is designed to help the patient live as actively as possible.
Where is palliative care provided?
Palliative care services are flexible and can be provided in many areas:
- Community-based settings such assisted living and nursing and rehabilitation centers
- Designated palliative care units/suites
- Hospital unit/room
- Patient’s home
Outpatient palliative care consults take place by appointment in the Palliative Care office at UM Shore Medical Pavilion at Easton.
- 500 Cadmus Lane, Suite 209
Easton, Maryland 21601
Palliative care consults also can be provided via telemedicine for patients in northern Queen Anne’s and Kent counties.
Anyone can request a palliative care evaluation — the patient, the family member or loved one, a provider, nurse, social worker, or clergy can ask for a consultation. Please use our referral form to request a consultation.
For more information, please call Madeline Steffens, RN, BSN, CHPN, program coordinator Shore Regional Palliative Care, at 410-820-4434.