People living with serious chronic illness often find themselves facing major challenges in navigating and understanding their care options within a complex medical system. Now, increasing research is supporting what many health care providers have long known: comprehensive palliative care that treats both symptoms and a person’s emotional and spiritual needs can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “unlike traditional programs for managing chronic disease, palliative care enhances symptom management, improves patient and family satisfaction scores, and significantly reduces hospitalization rates.”
Traditionally, palliative care had been considered an end of life or hospice option because at its inception it was delivered only through hospice programs where the focus was on pain management. Towards the end of the 1980s however, its scope began to expand beyond the boundaries of hospice to include care and services for patients at any stage of a chronic illness. Its focus came to include symptom management and comfort care early in a patient’s illness with the intent of improving quality of life while they fought disease.
Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association is at the forefront of this thinking with an integrated palliative care program that provides our patients the benefits of both our home health and hospice programs. It is for patients who are still pursuing aggressive treatment for their illness and do not want to limit their care options. Through palliative care, our treatment team addresses the whole family’s emotional, spiritual, and social needs in addition to the patient’s acute medical treatment and then assigns the necessary resources. Should the patient improve, they are then able to transition to home health and recovery. If, however, the patient’s condition worsens, the team is already in place to transition to hospice care.
Livingston has long been an advocate of a more holistic patient-centered approach when coordinating medical care. Our primary concern has always been for our patients’ overall wellbeing; to meet their spiritual and emotional needs in addition to their medical treatment. It is gratifying to see that research now bears this out.
Lanyard K. Dial, MD
President/CEO and Medical Director
Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice