Palliative Care at CESLC

Palliative care is designed to help people live with a life-limiting illness. Any person experiencing an illness, whether it is curable or chronic, may benefit from this approach which provides patients and families an opportunity to manage symptoms and participate in a personalized treatment plan focused on well-being while dealing with a serious condition. At Charles E. Smith Life Communities (CESLC) those with a serious illness have the option to receive palliative care in a holistic care plan delivered by our team of professionals in both medical and non-medical disciplines.

The common misconception is that palliative care is the same as hospice care. This interpretation can cause anxiety for those who do not understand how the discipline has evolved.

“From my experience with families who opt for palliative care, they not only appreciate that their loved one will be made comfortable but also that they will be taken care of by the same nursing and medical team members they have gotten to know over many months or years,” says CESLC’s Hebrew Home of Greater Washington Social Worker Marybeth Rizio. “At times, families are apprehensive about choosing hospice, which would mean a whole new team of caregivers for their loved one, so our palliative care program is a great way to have continuity of care.”

Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Palliative care treats the physical, emotional and psychological symptoms that occur with a serious condition. The treatment focuses on relieving and managing the stresses as well as the symptoms – a shift in emphasis from cure to comfort. For a person with an illness, it offers relief from suffering, helps treat pain, addresses psychological and spiritual care and provides a support system to help the patient live an active life as much as possible. Loved ones benefit from this support system, too, as they become participants and recipients in the process. Palliative care focuses on the emotional well-being of the patient and, in some circumstances, may decrease depression and increase lifespan. The goal of this type of care is to maximize the quality of life for patients, their family and their friends.

Hospice care focuses on a person who has been diagnosed with an end-stage disease with no more than six months to live. In such cases, comfort is the primary focus.

Palliative care is appropriate at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. In fact, this type of care is often used to treat side effects of chemotherapy or radiation. It is best to begin such care from the point of the diagnosis, whether the person is expected to recover or not, as it can help those receiving care better understand the prognosis and choices for medical treatment. Palliative treatment can be provided across multiple settings including hospitals, skilled nursing homes, the patient’s home or as part of community programs.

Palliative Care Treatment and Team

A multidisciplinary care team that includes therapists, social workers, clergy and pastoral associates can help a person with a serious illness manage not only physical symptoms like pain, fatigue, nausea, lack of appetite, problems with sleep, shortness of breath and cardiac issues but also psychological distress, anxiety, fear, depression and personal grief. Spiritual needs and questions are addressed as well.

This team can provide a holistic approach to care. The palliative care team collectively focus on treatment, improving quality of life, pain management and symptom control. This approach helps patients and their families cope with many challenges, including the side effects of treatment, caregiver stress and fears about the future. Assisting the patient, guiding the family and friends through difficult medical decisions and helping them all to understand the advantages and challenges of various treatment options are crucial components of palliative care treatment and a patient’s well-being.

A palliative care plan does not mean giving up on a cure if a cure is possible; it simply adds a new dimension to treatment. The physician spends time with the patient and family, setting goals and embracing what is truly most important. The care plan is then expanded to include professionals in non-medical disciplines. For example, CESLC conducts a specialized training program for professionals in Clinical Pastoral Education. They may become part of the team which can also include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, rabbis, pastoral associates, therapists and social workers.

Including family and friends is an integral part of this type of care because it can improve communication and coordination with the palliative care team. It opens up discussions about treatment options and provides opportunities to meet the person’s emotional and spiritual needs.

Many care organizations include palliative care as part of a wide range of services from independent living to assisted living to nursing home care to end-of-life care. See more about nursing home care at CESLC. To find out more about palliative care in Rockville and how the team at CESLC can help, please contact us.