Palliative Care Services at St. Joseph Hospital
Dr. Michael Fratkin
Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care is appropriate at any point in an illness, and it can be provided at the same time as treatment that is meant to cure you.
Having a serious, chronic or terminal illness can be emotionally, spiritually and physically draining.
At St. Joseph Hospital, a team of specially trained physicians, nurses, social workers and volunteers are available to help ease the pain for you or your loved one, and help improve overall quality of life.
The hospital’s palliative care program focuses on pain and symptom control and promoting quality of life for patients living with a serious, chronic, or terminal illness. For their families, palliative care works to assure physical comfort while providing psychosocial and spiritual support.
With a focus on both patient and family, palliative care begins when a life-threatening illness or injury occurs and continues through the bereavement process. Unlike hospice, palliative care can be provided simultaneously with curative measures and is offered as a complement to all other appropriate medical treatments.
Palliative care is perfectly aligned with the mission and goals of the Sisters of St Joseph of Orange, including the concepts of sacred encounters, and perfect care. The hospital’s “No One Dies Alone” program is a good example of the palliative care philosophy at work. In the No One Dies Alone Program, a select group of “compassionate companions” provides a reassuring presence to dying patients who would otherwise be alone.
Palliative Care Emphasizes:
- Symptom Management
- Deeply Respectful and Caring Communication with the Patient and Family
- Advance Care Planning, including Advance Directives (aka living will)
- Spiritual Support
- Psychosocial Support
- Discharge Planning
Palliative care helps patients and families by prioritizing comfort and quality of life by recognizing and addressing many forms of suffering. For patients and families, palliative care offers:
- Relief from symptom distress, particularly pain, anxiety and other symptoms
- commonly seen at the end of life
- Help in clarifying the goals of care and assistance in understanding the plan of care
- Help navigating a complex and confusing medical system
- Help with coordinating and accessing care options
- A focus on palliation along with continued disease modifying treatments
- (no requirement to forego curative care, as is the case with hospice)
- Practical and emotional support for exhausted family caregivers
- Dedicated attention to the spiritual and emotional issues that arise
In addition to focusing on the relief of suffering, palliative care teams work to coordinate and rationalize care, ensuring that diagnostics, therapeutics, care setting and intensity of care are aligned with patient and family preferences.
According to a 2008 survey by the American Hospital Association, 31 percent of the nation’s 4,000 acute care hospitals now have official palliative care programs. And this number is growing rapidly. St. Joseph Hospital is proud to join in providing this best hospital practice to our patients and their families.
Which Patients Could Benefit from Palliative Care?
Typically, palliative care services see any patient with serious, chronic illness who would benefit from the symptom relief, communication, and care coordination expertise the palliative care team has to offer.
- Instances when the clinical team and/or patient/family need help with complex decision-
- making and determining goals of care
- Frequent emergency department visits or admissions for the same diagnosis
- Cancer, advanced heart or lung disease, brain injury, and degenerative neurological illnesses,
- such as Alzheimer's disease
- When assistance is needed to determine hospice eligibility and/or when the patient and
- family would benefit from education about hospice
- Unaddressed spiritual or psychosocial issues
- Prolonged stay on the floor or in an ICU without evidence of improvement or with poor
How Does Palliative Care Help?
The palliative care team can help patients and families by:
- Managing symptoms including pain, nausea, weakness, bowel and bladder problems, mental
- confusion, fatigue, and trouble breathing
- Providing special services, such as speech and physical therapy, when needed
- Arranging for emotional or spiritual support from mental health counselors and clergy
- Educating families about the patient's condition and providing advice on caregiving, including
- how to give medicines and recognize an emergency
- Discussing the pros and cons of different treatments with patients and their families
- Providing respite care so caregivers can take a break
- Helping families plan ahead. In the case of a degenerative or terminal disease, this might
- include discussion of advance directives, such as living wills, to ensure the patient's wishes
- are carried out
How to Initiate Palliative Care
Anyone perceiving remediable suffering in any patient in any service area of the hospital can request help. This includes requests from a family member concerned about any patient. Speak to the attending physician or nurse about arranging for palliative care services.
There is no cost to patients beyond the customary professional billing for medical consultation should formal physician input be requested (this requires a physician order from the patient’s doctor).
Availability: Hours: Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm