Employee & Community Health

Palliative care provides patients with extra support

1/18/2018 by Dr. Rachel Havyer

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Human beings have practiced palliative or supportive care for as long as we've been caring for each other. It helps manage symptoms, align treatment with the individual's goals and maximize quality of life for people with chronic conditions, life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses or simply have become more frail as they age. 

Palliative care supports treatment, taking a more interdisciplinary/holistic approach. It brings together a team that may include — along with a primary care doctor, nurse practitioner or physician's assistant — a social worker, chaplain, pharmacist and nurse, depending on the patient's needs. 

This team looks at the big picture, not only at the patient's condition, but also their individual values and goals. They have ongoing conversations with the patient about what they want to get out of their life and what's most important to them. Together, the team, patient and family create a realistic care plan to help achieve those health and personal goals. For instance, a person may want to be as independent as possible. The team would look at treatment options to determine what would best support that goal. 

Within Employee and Community Health (ECH), we have a palliative program for homebound, frail elders who want to be cared for and seen in their home. We make nursing calls, do in-home treatments and also provide care at our outpatient clinics. 

So how do you receive palliative care? Your current care team may identify that you could benefit from this supportive approach and refer you. You also can talk with your provider about this care option. If a patient is hospitalized, palliative care consultations are available. 

If you'd like to learn more about palliative care, this article on the Mayo Clinic website is a good starting point. 

Dr. Rachel Havyer is a primary care and palliative care physician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine (PCIM).