What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is a specialty of medicine focused on relieving symptoms and stress of a serious illness for patients and their families. Working with patients and their other doctors, our palliative care team provides an extra layer of support. Palliative care can be initiated at any stage of serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. Communication and care coordination are essential to maximize the quality of life for patients according to their goals and wishes.
At MedStar Harbor Hospital, our experienced interdisciplinary care team members are specially trained in palliative medicine and include a doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, social worker, and chaplain.
How can we help?
Pain and Symptom Management
The Palliative Care team has expertise in the management of pain and other troublesome symptoms that may develop during the course of a serious illness. The goal of symptom management is to help the patient remain as comfortable, active and alert as possible. Good symptom control enables the patient to continue with favorite activities and enjoy the company of family and friends. The patient's care plan is individual and focuses on maximum comfort. Our team carefully monitors symptoms and uses a combination of medications tailored to the needs of each patient.
Guidance with Difficult Treatment Decisions
The Palliative Care team is available to help with decisions about medical treatment or changes in the direction of care. Even when curative treatment is no longer possible, aggressive treatment of symptoms is emphasized in order to promote comfort. The focus continues to be on intensive caring and support for the patient and family. The team provides consultation to the patient's regular physician who will continue to direct the patient's care.
Emotional and Spiritual Support
Palliative Care focuses on the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. How the illness personally affects the lives of the patient and family is important. Everyone copes in different ways. Support is tailored to the needs and preferences of each individual. Supportive counseling is provided to those who find having a quiet time to reflect and to address their concerns helpful. Palliative Care also works to provide the patient and family with the information and resources needed to get through this challenging time.
Assistance with Planning for Care after Hospital Discharge
The Palliative Care team can provide information about a wide range of options for care, whether in the hospital, another inpatient setting, or at home. The goal is to facilitate a smooth transition, and to assure that care continues in keeping with the patient's goals and wishes. If and when hospice care is needed, Palliative Care can assist with making referrals to a hospice program in the patient's community.