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Published on March 18, 2015

Spartanburg Regional Palliative Care Brings Comfort During Illness

A diagnosis of a serious illness can be devastating for a patient and their family members. The Palliative Care Program at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System (SRHS) focuses on providing patients with relief from the time of the diagnosis throughout their illness with the goal of improving the quality of life for the patient and their family.

The program focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain, stress and any suffering from a serious illness through a partnership with the patient, medical specialists and family members.

“Palliative care offers many things for patients and families,” said Brian Bell, M.D., director of the Palliative Care Program at SRHS. “It has been proven to help out with symptom management and help out with the quality of life, which is hard to quantify. It helps improve life expectancy. We want patients to live longer and live better.” 

Palliative care may be confused with Hospice care. Palliative care can be appropriate for anyone with a serious illness at any age or stage of an illness. Patients may receive it along with curative treatment, and it is not dependent on prognosis.

Hospice care is an important Medicare benefit for terminally ill patients who may have only months to live. Hospice care is the right choice when comfort and symptom management are of utmost importance.

“Palliative care addresses the total needs of the patient. Not just the medical, but the physical, practical, psychological and worries about paying for bills or medication,” Bell said. “Sometimes a patient just needs someone to talk to about what is going on.”

Palliative care helps reduce the physical and emotional sides of an illness through sophisticated pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual support, navigating the health care system, guidance with treatment choices and advance care planning.

“One critical area we work with is the Intensive Care Unit, where many of the patients are potentially dying,” Bell said. “Our team assesses the situation, sits down with the family and has a detailed conversation about what’s going on, what the future may look like and what they may experience in the hospital and the future.”

The palliative care team includes not only medical professionals, but also a social worker and a chaplain who are also involved in the care of the patient. 

“A team approach is the only way to do it,” Bell said. “This isn’t just about medical records, but also the emotional and spiritual needs a patient may need. If patients are calm and comfortable, they will heal faster.”

The Palliative Care Program includes a Supportive Care Clinic that offers relief from pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, problems with sleep and side effects from medical treatments.

The program is available to patients at home and in nursing homes as well.

“Patients are in the hospital for a short time but their pain and suffering sometimes continues after they leave, and the Supportive Care Clinic helps after they leave,” Bell said. “We offer a continuum of care. No patient should go through a serious illness alone.”

For more information on palliative care, visit http://www.spartanburgregional.com/care-treatment/palliative-care/

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