Ask the Expert: Palliative Care
An interview with Kristin Edwards, MD, Bridgeport Hospital’s medical director of Palliative Care. The hospital’s Geriatrics and Palliative Care team won the 2018 International Empathy Amplified Award during the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit for improving care through courtesy, communication and compassion.
Q: What is palliative care?
Palliative care focuses on quality of life and relief of suffering for patients with a serious illness. It can be provided in any setting and at any stage of illness. It can go hand in hand with care for specific diseases or conditions, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. A palliative care team can help people understand their illness and care options, and guide decisions so the care is best for the individual patient. Think of palliative care as an extra layer of support for those with serious illness. Palliative care is not the same as end-of-life care. In short, anything aimed at relief of symptoms and suffering from serious illness in any setting is palliative care.
Q: Who should be involved in making decisions about palliative care?
Primary care doctors and hospital physicians can refer patients to palliative care. The service can be most useful early, even from the first diagnosis of a serious illness. It helps to not only treat suffering but also anticipate and prevent further pain.
Q: Who is involved in providing palliative care?
Palliative care involves a team of physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains. Other caregivers may be needed, such as physical and occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, music and art therapists, and child life specialists, to name a few.
Q: Where can palliative care be provided?
Any setting, including the hospital, nursing home, clinic or home, is appropriate for palliative care, though improving access to outpatient palliative care is still a statewide need.
Q: How can a palliative care physician help patients and families choose the right caregivers and settings?
The first appointment includes an assessment and attempt to help with severe symptoms. Once symptoms are controlled, we get to know the patients more, understand what matters to them and suggest treatment choices. We also look at where they live and what kind of support network they have.
Q: If patients or families are seeking palliative care in the Bridgeport Hospital area, who can they contact for more information?
Bridgeport Hospital has an inpatient palliative care service and plans to expand to an outpatient clinic in the near future.