Ellen Ryan's cancer has not just pulled her down but along with her, her families too have to face the load of the illness. The cancer of the bone, brain and breast has taken its toll on Ellen who is finding it difficult to bear the physical and mental pain of the illness. Her family could seem to do nothing to ease the pain. It was then the family got help from unexpected quarters- the palliative care team at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
A doctor at the center specialized in this field arranged a meeting with the patient and family. With the help of the palliative workers Ellen could cope with the turmoil in her life.
Palliative care specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of the person seriously ill. It is also to check and relieve suffering and provide a better quality of life to the patients and their family. This palliative care goes on simultaneously with treatment to cure the illness.
The care for each patient is different as Palliative care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each patient has a different response to the treatment given to him, so it has to be customized to the individual needs of the patient.
It helps the patient overcome the symptoms, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, constipation, sleeping difficulty etc. Helps the patient gain strength to carry on his daily life. The care is beneficial to the family of the patient too. Gives them ample support and help them take medical decisions and choose treatments.
This little-known field of palliative medicine is growing quite rapidly. It began on the periphery of medicine in small community hospitals but now has gained much respect from doctors and patients alike. Eduardo Bruera, chairman of palliative care and rehabilitation medicine at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center opines on the matter.
Almost 30% of the hospitals now offer this care, showing almost a double growth since 2000. This growing popularity has prompted The American Board of Medical Specialties to conduct the first board exam in palliative care.
Palliative care addresses two related problems for cancer patients: poor coordination in the health care system and the heavy burden faced by caregivers. Patrick Coyne says palliative care is one of the few areas of medicine practiced as a team. Coyne, clinical director of palliative care at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, says teams typically include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chaplains, dietitians, and physical and occupational therapists. They meet several times a week, developing a coordinated care plan based on the results of "goal-setting" meetings. His team recently spent nine hours teaching a father how to care for his daughter's feeding tube and tracheotomy. They found a child psychologist to counsel a teenager distraught over his father's impending death. Coyne's staff connects patients to community resources such as Meals on Wheels. They may even make follow-up phone calls to grieving families after a patient's death.
This field has become important as more and more people seemed to be diagnosed with chronic illness. Unlike hospice, which is given to patients in the last six months of their life palliative care can go on for many years and is given along with the treatment.
A recent study has found that this care trims the hospital expense to a considerable amount.
As rightly put "It's like an ICU for suffering."