What is Palliative Care?

Often referred to as end-of-life care, Palliative Care is a multidisciplinary approach of care in which patients are actively involved in the decision-making process to improve the quality of their life during a serious illness. 

Palliative care is typically offered at the beginning of a significant or life-changing or life-limiting illness to stop or lessen suffering and to help people understand that they have choices about their care. It is available on an inpatient basis and can be provided as the main goal of care or as a supporting option. It is often difficult for families and patients to understand that decisions are not always cut and dry. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing for a patient and sometimes full-court press is the best thing – your treatment depends on what your goals of care are and what you want at that stage of your life. 

Your Palliative Care Team

At MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, the Palliative Care Team includes Director of Palliative Care, Kristin Forner, MD, physician Hayda Perdue, MD, social worker Zoe Plaugher, SW, Nurse Practitioner Linda Ukeje, NP, and chaplain Dawn Barnes.  Together, they are responsible for managing the care a patient receives to ensure their case is treated in a unique way determined by each individual patient. The team incorporates multiple disciplines as they help review the medical condition of the patient, set treatment goals, provide the family with support, and resolve conflicts.  The team also works with both in-patient consultants and outside agencies, such as hospice, to coordinate the best care for each patient. 

The Value of Palliative Care

Many people are not aware that a doctor has to tell you everything that could be done, but whether it should be done, that is a different question. Physicians have the ability to keep someone from dying, but they may not have the ability to restore them to health. In those cases, treatment may be prolonging how long it takes someone to die.

In palliative care, issues that are discussed include how to deal with discomfort (physical and psychological distress), what to do with regard to employment, or how to discuss feelings with family members.  Sometimes we talk about what their doctor have told them and their interpretation.  These issues can cause a lot of stress, sometimes more than the physical illness itself. When you take care of some of those stressors and when a patient is physically comfortable, then they have enough energy to survive and live a little longer.

Watch below as Hunter Groninger, MD, FAAHPM, Director of Palliative Care at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, talks about the value of palliative care. 

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