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How palliative care works

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The palliative care team visits COPD patients wherever they live; whether in an assisted living facility, group home or nursing home. The team has visited patients in prisons and homeless shelters as well. Anyone can receive the supportive services of palliative care.

Palliative care services include:

• An Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) collaborates with health care workers and use evidence-based symptom control. The APN will also work as a liaison with other specialists (hospitals/community) and provide education for families and caregivers.

• Assistance with advance health care decision making.

• Emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual support to the patient and families.

• Volunteer support, grief counseling, and expressive therapies such as art, music, and legacy work.

Every day, hundreds of people benefit from palliative care. Here’s the story of Mr. J., a COPD patient since 1996 who had been making several trips to the emergency room each year.

Patient file:  Mr. J. was first diagnosed with COPD in 1996. At the time, a doctor said he was “worried” about his lungs but Mr. J. did not receive specific information about his condition. Up to that point, Mr. J. had never heard of emphysema or COPD. Over the last two years, his doctors have not felt it was beneficial to continue to test his lung function as it had obviously continued to decline.

In the last 16 months, Mr. J. had been in the emergency room approximately eight times. He was frequently treated with acute measures to improve his shortness of breath. Mr. J. lives about 25 miles from his preferred hospital and this causes a conflict when a crisis occurs. The ambulance drivers are mandated to transport unstable patients to the closest emergency room that can provide treatment. Mr. J. wants to go where the doctors know him, have his records, and treat him with the most effectively.

Through our Palliative Care Program, Hospice of the Western Reserve partnered with Mr. J. and his doctors to manage his pain and other symptoms. By doing so Mr. J was able to recognize and report early symptoms and avoid a crisis and trip to the emergency room.

The third part of this important series will be published next week, October 13th.

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