By Russ Granich, MD,
Chief Medical Officer of Palliative Care of the East Bay
Many people get upset if their doctor says she wants to refer them to palliative care, worrying that it will only mean end-of-life care. However, palliative care is quite different from hospice. Palliative care provides patients relief from their symptoms, helps them cope with their illness and plan for the future. It is specialized care for anyone, at any age, with a serious illness. As Dr. Michael Rabow of UCSF says:
The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative treatment.
The need for quality palliative care is growing. As a non-profit organization with a strong commitment to our community, Hospice East Bay has developed a palliative care program to meet that need. It is called Palliative Care of the East Bay. This program is team-based and includes a board-certified palliative care physician, certified nurse practitioner, social worker, registered nurse, and volunteers, as well as access to spiritual care and home health aides. An RN is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other team members are available during the day for visits and phone support.
The palliative care team will coordinate with your other health service providers and work with you to develop a plan for of care that involves all of your doctors and services, while ensuring that your needs and wishes are being met.
In addition, Palliative Care of the East Bay can help with filling out complicated medical forms, managing medications and prescriptions, educating family members and caregivers on how to give medications and use medical equipment, coordinating lab work, ordering necessary medical equipment. We also organize care conferences to help resolve family conflicts, arrange volunteer services to provide caregiver relief and friendly visitors, and assist with difficult emotional and logistical transitions, such as moving a patient to an assisted care facility.
Every person is different and so we treat each patient as an individual to help them reach their own personal goals. Some patients might still be receiving aggressive treatments, such as chemotherapy. Some might be winding down and just want to focus on comfort but are not ready for hospice. The real strength of palliative care is the flexibility to provide the care that is most appropriate for you and your family.
Palliative Care of the East Bay works with many insurance providers. Our coordinator can answer your questions about what is covered by your insurance and work to develop a program that fits your needs. Ask your doctor about Palliative Care of the East Bay or call us at (925) 852-0010.