In addition to a medical condition, patients with serious illnesses can also face a number of other physical and emotional issues.
Physical issues may include pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Emotional issues may include stress, anxiety, depression, and difficulty communicating with medical professionals or making important decisions. A patient’s family may also have difficulty understanding or coping with the patient’s condition, treatment or prognosis.
At Hurley Medical Center, the goal of our Palliative Care services is to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. We work with physicians, nurses, medical social workers and chaplains to provide coordinated care that serves the whole patient and ensures that families are active participants in the treatment and decision-making processes. To create greater understanding within the medical community about palliative care and its benefits, we also work with residents and medical students during their training at Hurley.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care helps relieve suffering through pain and symptom management, effective communication with care providers, and coordination of treatment and services. It helps patients with daily life issues tolerate medical treatments and better understand their care options.
At Hurley Medical Center, we know that each patient is unique, as is every illness. As a result, a patient’s condition may affect his/her medical and emotional health. Other factors are important in determining the patient’s plan of care, including personal preferences and beliefs, family circumstances, and other issues.
Palliative care may include any or all of the following elements:
- Pain and symptom management. Our palliative care team will identify your sources of pain and discomfort, whether this includes difficulty breathing, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, constipation, incontinence and other bowel or bladder problems. With this information, and in consultation with the patient and his or her family, we can provide treatments that can offer relief.
- Communication and coordination of care. Communication between patients, their families, and the numerous medical professionals providing care is an essential element in ensuring that a patient’s needs are fully met, which at Hurley we call patient- and family-centered care. The Hurley palliative care professionals serve as advocates for the patient and a source of clear, unbiased information. We help ensure that all parties are involved in discussing and establishing goals for curative treatment, ongoing illness management or end-of-life care, as necessary.
- Emotional support. Illness is stressful. Chronic stress, or severe short-term stress, can cause a number of problems not directly related to the primary injury or illness itself. Palliative care focuses on the entire person, not just his or her illness. Hurley’s palliative care professionals will help you find resources that can address your unique social, psychological, emotional or spiritual needs.
- Family/caregiver support. Caring for an ill person can create stress, as well. We help connect families with counselors and other resources that can help relieve some of the burden and assist with making difficult decisions. We provide patients and families with the information they need to make choices that work for them.
- End-of-life and hospice care. For patients with a terminal diagnosis and who are no longer seeking curative treatment, hospice care can be an excellent option. Provided in the patient’s home, a residential setting or a hospital, hospice care focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients who are expected to live for weeks or months, not years. We also work with patients to determine advance directives (including “do not resuscitate” orders and other life-support options) and help explain code status to families.
- More information about palliative care is available at http://www.getpalliativecare.org.
How do I know if I need Palliative Care?
Palliative care can be appropriate at any stage of illness or injury, and is not limited to patients with advanced or life-threatening illnesses. Palliative care can help patients and families from initial diagnosis through curative treatment, rehabilitation and/or hospice care.
If you suffer from pain and other symptoms due to a serious illness or injury, palliative care may be right for you. Serious illnesses include (but are not limited to) cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s and AIDS.
How to Request Palliative Care
To contact a member of Hurley Medical Center’s Palliative Care team, inpatients and their families should speak with their nurse or physician, who will then contact a palliative-care specialist.
You may also contact the Director of Hurley Pain & Palliative Care at (810) 262-4919.