Palliative care is medical specialty focused on providing support for patients with serious illnesses. The care can include anything from relief from symptoms, pain and stress, to assistance with insurance, support groups and advance care planning.
The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for people facing serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or liver failure, and neurological disorders like stroke and Alzheimer's disease.
Palliative care is supplemental to the medical care provided by your primary care physician and specialists. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative treatment. (Center of Advance Palliative Care, 2011) We work in cooperation with your physicians to treat your illness, with our emphasis placed on pain and symptom management, improved communication, and coordination of care.
Meridian Care Journey is a comprehensive palliative care program. The program has four components to address the needs of patients, no matter where they are receiving care in the Meridian network: Hospital, Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, our Center for Integrated Palliative Medicine (CIPM) outpatient practices (with locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties), and at home.
Inpatient Palliative Care Consultation:
Meridian Health offers an inpatient palliative care consultation program at all seven acute care hospitals. The inpatient palliative care team consists of a physician, nurse practitioner, social worker and chaplain, and works with the patient’s other physicians to provide an extra layer of support. The team focuses on managing physical symptoms, coordinating care, and providing emotional and spiritual support. In order to receive an inpatient palliative care consultation, a physician must place an order for palliative care.
Outpatient Palliative Care Consultation:
At all five Meridian Nursing and Rehabilitation facilities, as well as the Meridian Willows Assisted Living Facility, a palliative care referral-based outpatient consultation program is offered. This program is available for any patient in any of these facilities, whether there for a short-term rehabilitation or there as a resident in a long term care unit. The palliative care team can help with symptom management, advance care planning, care coordination, and emotional support.
Home-Based Palliative Care Program:
Working with physician oversight, a palliative care team comprised of nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, and chaplains visits patients and their families at home. Focusing on symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual support, the team works together to add an additional layer of support for the patient and their family on an ongoing basis. This program is meant for patients who experience a taxing effort to leave the home. The team works closely with patients’ primary physicians and helps to coordinate and deliver comprehensive and personalized care.
Center for Integrated Palliative Medicine (CIPM) is an outpatient program for patients dealing with a serious illness. The outpatient practice is staffed by a palliative medicine specialist physician, advance practice nurse and licensed clinical social worker who work together as a team. The practice offers pain and symptom management, advance care planning and emotional support, and works closely with the patient’s other physicians to be an extra layer of support. CIPM does not require a physician referral unless required by your insurance. We have three convenient locations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Please call 732-268-8470 to set up an appointment or if you have any questions.
Because palliative care is a relatively new specialty, there are many misconceptions.
Four Common Misconceptions about Palliative Care
Myth: To qualify for palliative care, a patient must be dying.
Reality: Palliative care is appropriate for patients at any stage of a serious illness, optimally at the time when a diagnosis is made.
Myth: Patients must give up all curative treatments to receive palliative care.
Reality: Palliative care is given alongside curative treatments. For example, a patient may continue to receive chemotherapy or radiation while receiving palliative care.
Myth: Palliative care is synonymous with hospice care.
Reality: Unlike hospice care, patients receiving palliative care do not have to accept comfort care as the primary goal of treatment or have a prognosis of 6-months or less. Palliative care patients do not have to forgo curative treatment of their underlying disease or hospitalization for the disease.
Myth: If a patient chooses palliative care, they are giving up and will die more quickly.
Reality: Palliative care has not only been shown to improve quality of life, decrease the use of aggressive treatments at the end of life, and reduce depression, but it has also been shown to prolong life for patients with advanced lung cancer. There is research being done today on the effect of palliative care on the prognosis of patients with other serious illnesses.