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CMH initiates palliative care program for patients, families (November 15, 2013)

The CMH Palliative Care team meets weekly to collaborate on patient care. Pictured (l-r) are social worker David Sacks, Dr. Francisca Bruney, medical director; palliative care navigator David Free, NP, social worker Cindy Bruce, committee chair; Mathew Wheaton, director, CMH Transitional Care Unit; Dr. Mike Brooks, TCU nurse Deborah Cole, pharmacist Neal Vasist, Rev. Alice Thompson, CMH chaplain and case manager Jean Davis.

Program provides extra support for those dealing with ongoing illness

Earlier this month, Calvert Memorial Hospital began a new palliative care program aimed at providing extra support for patients and their families dealing with ongoing illness. The focus of palliative care is to ease the pain, suffering and stress caused by advanced or chronic illness while maximizing their quality of life.

“Our palliative care team understands that when a patient is coping with a serious illness that it can also have a big impact on their family,” said Dr. Francisca Bruney, medical director of the palliative care program at CMH. “This program was created to help not only patients but their loved ones deal with these challenges.”

The CMH Palliative Care team includes palliative care doctors, nurse practitioner, nurses and social workers as well as the hospital chaplain, pharmacist, nutritionist and case managers who meet weekly to collaborate on patient care.

Bruney said that palliative care services are available to all inpatients at Calvert Memorial Hospital. “If a patient, family member or caregiver thinks this is a service they need or could benefit from any of them may ask for a visit from the palliative care team.”

Once a consult is requested, she said, the palliative care navigator will meet with the patient and their family to determine their needs and then will forward this information to the palliative are team. Together, they address emotional, spiritual and cultural needs while working closely with the patient’s own doctor regarding treatment options.

Bruney stressed that palliative is different than hospice care, which is specifically meant for those approaching the last stages of life, while palliative care is appropriate for any stage of a serious illness.

“The most important thing is not to wait,” said palliative care navigator David Free, NP. “Early palliative care has been shown to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients and their families.” Free is a nationally certified Hospice Palliative Care nurse practitioner and has spent more than half of his 15-year nursing career in areas related to hospice and palliative care.

He explained that a chronic illness can present a patient and their family with many choices and decisions. “Our palliative care team can help them through this process,” said Free, “by exploring their goals and wishes and by clarifying treatment options.”

Additionally, he said the palliative care team can help with discussing pain and symptom management while promoting communication between all of the caregivers. “We can also assist with establishing advance directives and providing information about home care, skilled nursing and other services,” said Free.

According to Dr. Bruney, there are many patients who could benefit from palliative care, “especially if they are experiencing physical or emotional pain that is not under control or they need help understanding or coordinating their care.”

She went on to add that most insurance plans cover all or part of palliative care treatment that is provided in the hospital, just as they would other services. Medicare and Medicaid also typically cover palliative care. If a patient or family member has concerns about the cost of palliative care treatment, a social worker from the palliative care team is available to answer questions and provide assistance.

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