Palliative Care Offers Support
Illness and injury happen. These experiences — so much a part of life — are difficult and uncomfortable, especially when they happen to someone we love and care about. But there are specialists who are experts in the field of assisting patients and families facing serious or grave medical conditions. Palliative care givers are those who treat and comfort in such times.
Palliative care at Baptist Hospital is for inpatients of all ages and stages of medical treatment. There are no guidelines for life expectancy. In this way, palliative care is different than hospice care, in which patients are typically given a life expectancy of six months or less. If a trauma or more serious condition is evident, then the palliative care team urges for early intervention.
Communication is a primary treatment focus in palliative care according to Kelly Markham, LCSW, ACHP-SW, palliative care manager and medical ethics committee chair at Baptist Hospital. Markham explains that she and her team help patients and families cope with health conditions through support, counseling, referral services and follow-up with the caregiving team.
“We seek to improve the quality of life and help those we serve with facing the challenges that arise from an illness,” said Markham. “This could be managing the pain of the patient’s medical condition or it could be helping them overcome fatigue and depression. In each situation, we give them tools so they can cope and offer resources that can often take the burden off loved ones.”
Baptist Hospital Palliative Care requires a referral from the attending physician or specialist, but once that referral is made to the palliative care team, Markham and her staff meet with the patient and/or family members as soon as possible. They first hold a “family meeting” with patients and their families. This lasts an hour or longer. During the session, the palliative care team’s goal is to ensure that each patient and loved one has a full understanding of the condition and becomes aware of any future challenges that could arise. These meetings help to foster family communication.
“Since our main treatment is communication, I’ve seen a lot of healing in family relationships after undergoing support in these family meetings from palliative care,” said Markham.
Markham noted that not all palliative care is sad or ends with death. She has seen celebrations and surprising healing take place over the years. Researchers have shown that cancer patients who had the added service of palliative care lived an average of two months longer because of its support. The Baptist Health Care palliative care team supports patients and families so that they are not alone in their struggles and grief. They are here to support them and give them hope.