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Palliative Care at UM St. Joseph Medical Center

Palliative Care is the comprehensive treatment of the discomfort, symptoms and stresses associated with serious illness. It is the subspecialty of medicine dedicated to focusing on quality of life issues, taking into account the physical, psychological and emotional challenges that a patient and his or her family are experiencing.

As caregivers, we understand the impact of serious illness and prescribe effective and thoughtful treatment to help our patients live as fully and actively as possible.

Our Mission: To provide specialized and compassionate care for people with serious illnesses, and those who care for them.

Understanding the Difference: Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Palliative Care is not hospice care, though it encompasses hospice. Hospice care is prescribed when the patient's time left can be reasonably understood to be less than six months, and the patient, along with his or her family, has decided that it is time to shift the focus of care on quality of days and comfort rather than on prolonging life.

Palliative care includes aggressive medical interventions to prolong days and control or reduce the effects of serious diseases or illnesses. It celebrates all the milestones accomplished throughout treatment, and provides support to patients as they cope with challenging diagnoses and debilitating side effects.

Palliative care often "builds a bridge" for patients and their families, providing gentle and compassionate opportunities for crucial conversations about when it is time to begin a plan of care devoted solely to quality of days. The earlier palliative care is involved, the more helpful it can be to patients and their loved ones.

Other Benefits of Palliative Care

Studies show that patients who have a better idea of their prognosis have better quality of life during the last months of life. In some cases, those who receive earlier comfort-focused palliative and hospice care live longer, compared to those who receive aggressive hospital treatment.

The Palliative Care Team

The UM SJMC Palliative Care Team includes:

  • Helen Gordon, MD, FACP T
  • Morgan Pembroke, MD
  • Virginia Jump, CRNP - Nurse Practitioner
  • Shannon Nagy, CRNP - Nurse Practitioner
  • Sara Latrobe, LCSW-C
  • Phyllis Lee, Administrative Coordinator

Inpatient and outpatient consults are available. Dr. Gordon is part of the team at the Cancer Institute and can meet one-on-one with patients and families whenever helpful. Patients receiving palliative care while still receiving aggressive care for cancer report better quality of life and have been shown sometimes to live longer.

Who is Appropriate for Palliative Care?

  • Cancer patients with stage 3 (many) or 4, or recurrent cancer
  • Patients with progressive neurological disease such as PSNP, Parkinson's, ALS
  • Those with progressive lung disease needing oxygen, or having frequent exacerbations or hospitalizations
  • Patients with progressive cardiac disease, such as CHF or aortic stenosis
  • Patients with progressive dementia or frailty
  • Everyone with a serious illness
  • Anyone who has undue suffering related to medical conditions

Resources

For more information, please call 410-427-5352.