Meredithe Mendelsohn, Ph.D., Cancer Survivorship & Palliative Care program manager
Palliative care is a service that helps people define their goals for their care with a focus on improving their quality of life during or following a serious illness. This service provides support as long as people need it, focusing on each person’s unique experience in order to provide relief from the symptoms and stress of living with serious illness. The multidisciplinary team helps patients and their families navigate the health care system and their options in order
to reduce suffering and maximize quality of life.
All members of the team are involved in every patient’s care. Dr. Ellyn Lee is a board certified palliative care physician and director of palliative care for Swedish Medical Center. Kashina Groves is an advanced registered nurse practitioner with a background in hospice and geriatric primary care. Mary Halpin, RN, is the nurse and is certified in palliative care. The social worker is Vivian Foxx, who provides support and resources for patients. Cristina Celestino is the patient services coordinator. She schedules patient visits and helps patients with the administrative process.
For cancer survivors, the palliative care team can help develop a plan for relief of symptoms and side effects that occur during or after cancer treatment. As another resource, they can assist oncologists by providing extra support, taking a holistic approach and helping people with their overall health. During the first visit, an assessment of symptoms is completed. Afterwards, a discussion of possible options for symptom relief occurs which might include physical therapy, psychological support, medication revision and/or integrative medicine practices.
It is important to understand the difference between hospice and palliative care, which both focus on managing symptoms and side effects. The main goal for both types of care is to improve a patient’s quality of life. The main differences are who receives palliative or hospice care and when they receive it. Someone can begin receiving palliative care as soon as a diagnosis occurs and can continue receiving this type of care as long as it is needed and wanted. A person’s medical team and palliative care team work hand-in-hand, and palliative care becomes part of your treatment plan. When patients are no longer receiving treatment for their illness, they may choose to have hospice care. Hospice care focuses on making these patients comfortable and providing the best quality of life possible for the time they have remaining.
Anyone with a serious illness can come to the Palliative Care Clinic. To be referred to palliative care, ask your oncologist to make the referral. Once it is received, the palliative care staff will call you to schedule your appointment.
From the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) dedicated to cancer patients, survivors, and their family members and caregivers.