Palliative Care helps make the most out of every day
September 2019 Issue
By Dr. Gordon Krueger
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is professional care that helps ill people and their family members with support to make the most out of each day. During the course of an illness, palliative care addresses the whole person, physically, by anticipating symptoms a patient may experience, as well as addressing current symptoms for maximum quality of life. Emotional and spiritual care is also provided to navigate the journey of an illness. Additionally, palliative care can help to facilitate holistic medical care and navigation through the segmented health care system. Patient choices and autonomy are the primary focus.
When should a person/family consider Palliative Care?
Anyone who has been informed of a life limiting illness should seek palliative care. Care can be provided at any age and any stage of illness. Diagnoses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, COPD, heart failure, renal failure, kidney failure, AIDs, ALS and any other chronic illness should consider palliative care. Anyone with multiple health problems, as well as individuals who have experienced multiple falls, multiple emergency room visits, decreased ability to do the things you once could, should consider a palliative care consult. I always tell people that if you have thought it may be helpful, call. Consultation is always free and confidential.
What should people/their families expect when considering Palliative Care?
Initially, a registered nurse (RN) will meet with the patient and family in order to review current needs. A consent order will be signed to allow the palliative care team to review medical records and help establish goals of care. This process includes the primary care physician (should an individual have one) and medical team. Then, together, treatment options, symptom management and support for the patient and family are established.
What does the care team do?
Each patient is assigned a RN who works closely with the patient to establish individualized care plans. Then a medical director will review the patient’s medical records and meet with patient and family to review goals and answer any questions. Additionally, supportive services are offered and available. This includes spiritual care and advanced directive work. Supportive services help establish patient and family wishes while there is time to think things through. Medication management and help with appointments are provided. Nursing services are available to the patient 24/7 to reduce the need for unnecessary emergency department visits and hospitalizations.
How long can someone be on Palliative Care?
Palliative care is based on the patient’s need. This could mean a few months or many years. Some people get better and graduate from palliative care. Others have advancements in their illnesses and treatment is no longer an option or wanted.
Is this something most insurances cover?
Palliative care has been around for years, but it is the up and coming buzz in healthcare. Insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover many palliative care services. There is much talk about how this will change in the future. Studies have shown that palliative care greatly increases quality of life, as well as reductions of unnecessary hospitalizations. In the upcoming years, we will see insurance coverage increase to allow advancements in palliative care.
In 2013 Dr. Gordon Krueger became the Medical Director of Friends of Caroline Hospice, which has provided palliative care services since 1977. Friends of Caroline provides quality-of-life care that offers hope and encouragement to those nearing the end-of-life’s journey and support for their family, friends and the community. Palliative and Hospice Care have become Dr. Krueger’s mission following a long and successful career in general surgery. Moving to Beaufort in 1989 with his wife, Nan, and three children—Katy, Matt and Mark, Dr. Krueger was a founding partner with Dr. Tim Pierce of the Beaufort Surgery Center. He devoted 35 years as a Fellow in the American College of Surgery (FACS). Learn more about Friends of Caroline Hospice by calling 843-525-6257 or log on to www.FOCHospice.org