Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care
Who benefits from Palliative Care?Toggle accordion item
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 of serious illness. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and they family.
Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.
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Who provides Palliative Care?Toggle accordion item
Care continues to be provided by the patient’s care team with the assistance of the palliative care interdisciplinary team. Led by Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, MD, Medical Director of Palliative Care, the team includes physicians, nurses, social workers and dieticians. The team focuses on aligning medical care with the goals and values of patients and their families, and to improve the quality of life while providing comprehensive support for patients with serious illnesses.
The Palliative Care team works with patients’ own primary care and/or specialist physicians to provide a coordinated program of care. See “Meet the Team” for an overview of the UM SRH Palliative Care team.
Which patients are appropriate for Palliative Care?Toggle accordion item
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.
What types of treatments are involved in Palliative Care?Toggle accordion item
The palliative care team will explain treatment options to ensure that patients have the best possible quality of life during illness. The patient, with family and loved ones, can determine the goals of the care plan. Palliative care focuses on the whole person, not just the illness. The team addresses emotional, social and psychological support.
The team assists in identify sources of discomfort and provide treatments to offer relief and reduce suffering. Options for symptom management include medications, acupuncture, massage therapy and stress reduction techniques.
What are the benefits of Palliative Care for a patient and their families?Toggle accordion item
Everyone benefits from Palliative Care. Patients receiving palliative care have a plan that:
- Assists the patient in making decisions about their care that align with their goals.
- Integrates emotional and social needs into the care plan.
- Helps in developing support systems for patients, their families and loves ones.
- Provides relief from pain and other symptoms.
Where is Palliative Care provided?Toggle accordion item
Palliative care services can be provided in the hospital; 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.
Outpatient palliative care consults take place by appointment in the Palliative Care office at UM Shore Pavilion at Easton, 500 Cadmus Lane, Suite #211, Easton, Maryland. In addition, palliative care consults are provided via telemedicine for patients in northern Queen Anne’s and Kent counties.
Beyond symptom relief and pain management, what other benefits do patients receive from palliative care?Toggle accordion item
Palliative care addresses the patient’s physical needs and also his or her emotional, social and spiritual needs and those of the family and other loved ones. 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 should a patient request Palliative Care?Toggle accordion item
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.
How is Palliative Care different from hospice care?Toggle accordion item
What distinguishes palliative care services from hospice care services is that it addresses pain and other symptoms and can be provided at any stage during an illness, not just end-of-life. Palliative care can benefit patients of any age with a debilitating chronic disease or life threatening illness from the point of diagnosis, regardless of the prognosis; it can be provided concurrent with curative therapies and/or life prolonging treatments
How can a Palliative Care evaluation be requested?Toggle accordion item
Anyone can request a palliative Care evaluation. A provider, nurse, family member or loved one, social worker, clergy, or the patient.
Who can I talk to about the possibility of Palliative Care for my patients?Toggle accordion item
- For a physician consult, contact Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, MD, MBA, Medical Director, Palliative Care – 410-822-1000.
- For all other questions and information, contact Madeline Steffens, RN, BSN, CHPN, Coordinator, Palliative Care Program 410-778-1049.
For more information, listen here for an explanation of Palliative Care and its benefits provided by Lakshmi Vaidyanathan, MD, medical director, Shore Regional Palliative Care Program