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Advice

Palliative Care Teams Exceed Pain Management, Provide Holistic Care for Serious Illness

Members of the Palliative Care Consult Team and Community Palliative Care Program Lori Mendez, RN, CHPN; Dr. Dennis Baker, MD, Medical Director; Susan White, MSN, RN, CHPN, Palliative Care Manager; Dr. Michael Bordofsky, MD, Medical Director; Susan Gibson, FNP-BC, ACHPN, Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Michael Kearney, MD, Medical Director; and Julie Hirsch, RN, BSN. Click to view larger
Members of the Palliative Care Consult Team and Community Palliative Care Program Lori Mendez, RN, CHPN; Dr. Dennis Baker, MD, Medical Director; Susan White, MSN, RN, CHPN, Palliative Care Manager; Dr. Michael Bordofsky, MD, Medical Director; Susan Gibson, FNP-BC, ACHPN, Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Michael Kearney, MD, Medical Director; and Julie Hirsch, RN, BSN. (VNHC photo)

November marks National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and while many may be familiar with hospice, palliative care, which is expanding rapidly across the nation as well as in Santa Barbara, remains less understood.

“Palliative care services embrace the comprehensive needs of the patient,” said Dr. Michael Bordofsky, medical director at Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care (VNHC). “Palliative care offers relief from suffering while improving the quality of life for patients regardless of the stage of their illness or injury.”

In partnership with other organizations in the community, VNHC helps provide locals in need of these services with access to two interdisciplinary palliative care teams who care for patients and their loved ones when they need it most.

“VNHC supports the entire continuum of care by partnering with other community organizations to reach patients earlier to better serve our community,” said Lynda Tanner, VNHC president and CEO. “This collaborative effort allows for better integration of approaches and systems that improve coordination of care.” 

VNHC partners with Cottage Hospital and St. Francis Foundation to provide the Palliative Care Consult Team for patients who are in the hospital. The team includes specially trained doctors and nurses.

Outside of the hospital, VNHC’s partnership with the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara and Sansum Clinic provides the Community Palliative Care Program. This care team consists of palliative care nurses, doctors, and a nurse practitioner who work closely with the Cancer Center staff.

From 2013-14, the number of people utilizing palliative care services through these two teams jumped 20 percent, from 796 to 955. The number of patients seen in 2015 is on track to jump another 20 percent from last year.  

A primary focus of this program is to connect patients and families to community resources and to provide a smooth transition when the patient moves from the hospital to home or to another care setting.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care focuses primarily on anticipating, preventing, diagnosing and treating symptoms as well as mental and spiritual distress experienced by patients with a serious or life-threatening illness.

Palliative care helps ensure the patient receives the highest possible quality of life regardless of age, stage of disease or need for additional therapies.

Not to be confused with hospice care, patients may receive palliative care at any stage of illness or injury, whether they are terminally ill, facing a chronic disease with debilitating symptoms or expecting a full recovery through rehabilitation.

Why choose palliative care?

The benefits of palliative care go beyond managing pain and symptoms. It can help reduce visits to the emergency room, lower medical costs and improve capabilities.

In fact, according to a 2010 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, terminally ill patients who received early palliative care experienced less depression, enjoyed a better quality of life and survived longer than those who were given "life-prolonging" treatments or even just standard care.

Palliative care also helps patients and their families make medically important decisions from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, to hospice. 

Even following a patient passing, palliative care extends to provide support to the patient’s family through bereavement and counseling services.

To learn more, contact the Palliative Care office at Cottage Hospital by calling 805.569.8393.

Hannah Rael is a publicist representing Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

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