Welcome to our palliative care blog. Each month I will work to provide education and real-world examples to help families understand palliative care and determine if palliative care is right for your loved one. We will also introduce our team and other healthcare professionals by sharing stories, statistics, and real-world examples of how palliative care may help ease difficult transitions. Regardless of whether you ever need our services please use this blog as a source of information and guidance.
Many people have never heard of palliative care. Think about how you got here and when you first heard the term. It sounds jargon-y, and not commonly heard until there is a need. It’s like going online and starting a search but not knowing the right search phrase. You can’t always put into words what you need but you know the help is out there. That’s the way many feel when they are looking into resources to help family members with serious illnesses. What they are looking for is Palliative Care. But what exactly is it and how can it help someone with a serious, life-limiting, or chronic illness?
What is Palliative Care?
The National Consensus Project defines palliative care as:
“Patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering. Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information and choice.”
You may be thinking “Well isn’t that hospice?” I would be thinking “Well, you’re kind of right.” Hospice care and palliative care are similar services. Hospice care focuses on people with advanced life-limiting illnesses, provides comfort and quality of life rather than a cure, and generally has a life expectancy measured in six months or less. Palliative care by definition is generally recommended regardless of life expectancy, and the care can be provided in their home, own surroundings, hospital, or nursing home, or assisted living community depending on the program. Palliative care is intended to be delivered concurrently alongside other treatments, services, and primary care. What’s important here is that palliative care, regardless of the stage, focuses on quality of life. Palliative care is essentially not having to do it on your own. It’s an important care network that supports having the best life for the longest possible period. Different palliative care programs have different rules for admittance, different specialties, and different service offerings.
Palliative Care Program at Weinstein Hospice
Now that you have a general definition of palliative care let’s dive into how the program functions at Weinstein Hospice. At Weinstein Hospice we know that each course of action is different and the teams here can determine on an individualized basis the best next steps. The palliative care team helps communicate the illness and its progression to family members in an easy-to-digest way, provides emotional support to patients and caregivers, helps coordinate care between all providers, and makes referrals to community resources for assistance with social and practical needs.
At Weinstein Hospice we offer palliative care to patients pursuing aggressive treatments for cancer, heart disease, and lung disease including chemotherapy, radiation, blood transfusions and hospital intervention when needed. Patients who enroll in our palliative care program generally have a life expectancy of 1-year and will require hospice services within 6-months. Patients can be referred to our service in several ways but not limited to by a physician, various facilities, and the Jewish HomeLife community. We then coordinate with their existing medical team to determine if the patient is appropriate for the services we provide. Once admitted new patients are seen once every 2 weeks for the first month, then receive at least 1 visit per month more if needed or requested. Long-term patients who are considered very stable are seen approximately once every 6 weeks. Palliative care patients can be seen in their home or senior care/assisted living communities. The Weinstein Hospice palliative care team can also provide some services using telehealth visits as needed.
The Palliative care team at Weinstein Hospice consists of a Director of Palliative Care, a Nurse Practitioner, and a member of the team to guide spiritual services. The palliative care professionals coordinate care with doctors, provide emotional support, manage pain and other symptoms, and many more activities. However, there are some things outside of their scope that they can help coordinate with the patient’s other medical specialists, supportive living community, and family. Palliative care professionals at Weinstein Hospice do not manage acute behaviors, pick up prescriptions, provide social work services, prescribe or administer pain medications, provide CNA services, or provide emergency services.
What makes palliative care a good option for families is that they work seamlessly with other healthcare professionals to help maintain the highest quality of care possible for as long as possible. Communication, coordination, and a defined scope of work are key to giving patients the most effective care. I hope you use this blog as a resource alongside medical guidance to determine if palliative care is a reasonable option for you or your family. Weinstein Hospice and Palliative Care is available 24/7 at 404.351.1897 to help families manage serious chronic illness, navigate and manage chronic pain, and to help our community become more knowledgeable about treatment options. If you feel you have more urgent needs or are unsure which service is appropriate for you or your loved one we are always available at Weinstein Hospice to assist with all your questions.
If you plan on inquiring about palliative care services at Weinstein Hospice and Palliative Care here are a few questions to consider before making the call:
- Do you have an end-stage primary diagnosis of cancer, cardiac disease or pulmonary disease?
- Do you still wish to pursue aggressive treatments (ie. hospitalizations if necessary, chemotherapy, blood transfusions etc.) and remain under the care of your physicians as well?
- Do you currently have a PCP (primary care physician) and or referring physician?
- Are your current needs ones that could adequately be managed on an outpatient basis with bi-weekly or bi-monthly visits and/or the use of telehealth that operate on a Monday to Friday 9 am-5 pm schedule, or are your needs much more urgent requiring immediate assistance outside of those parameters?
If you answered yes to these questions and feel we might be able to assist your needs with palliative care please feel free to reach out to Emily Fain, Director of Palliative Care directly at 404.790.7792.