May 1, 2009
Although not new, the term "palliative care" is often not well understood by patients and families facing a serious illness. Palliative care generally refers to any care that lessens symptoms of a serious disease, whether or not there is hope of a cure or recovery. It is meant to improve the quality of life of patients and their families, while facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness. Palliative care may also be used to lessen the side effects of curative treatments such as chemotherapy, as well as to ease financial or legal worries.
Palliative care may include a broad range of services, including relief from suffering, treatment of pain, psychological and spiritual care, and a support system for both the patient and the family.
"There is often confusion between the terms hospice and palliative care, because they share similar goals of symptom relief and pain management" said Lynn Burgess, Chaplain at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital.
In December 2008, a report by the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) gave Vermont a perfect score on patient access to palliative care programs. Vermont was the only state in the nation to receive the designation.
NVRH considers palliative care a very important aspect of patient care, as evidenced by the fact that itís written into the first paragraph of the hospitalís mission statement. NVRH has a palliative care team consisting of physicians, care managers, a chaplain, nurses and dieticians.
"We can be creative and innovative," states Jan Oliver, Nurse Manager of the Medical/Surgical unit at NVRH. "Our systems are in place, and we work really well together as a team; thereís a great deal of collaboration, all putting the patients and family first."
The hospital provides a tote bag of items such as a journal, disposable camera, deck of cards, a teddy bear, aromatherapy and lotions. Families are encouraged to personalize the patientís room, whether itís with photographs or familiar and comforting items. The goal is to provide comfort and relaxation for a very moving and personal piece of life.
NVRH works collaboratively with other area agencies on palliative care issues, including, but not limited to, Caledonia Home Health Care, area nursing homes, and The Area Agency on Aging. "Itís great to have good communication with agencies in the area; weíre on the same page, wanting to maintain the best quality of life possible for our patients, as well as to provide a support system for the family," says Oliver.
Case Managers at NVRH also play a crucial role with patients and their families needing palliative care. "We are sensitive to individual needs; therefore, we have the conversations and offer the guidance that can be so difficult. Our goal is to help provide the best quality of life for patients. Itís definitely a team effort," states Pam Brink, NVRH Case Manager.
To learn more about programs and services at NVRH, please visit www.nvrh.org.
Hilary De Carlo