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Published on November 25, 2014

Pain and palliative care strives to improve quality of life

By Janelle Williamson, APRN, Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Living with a chronic illness is difficult. Patients may feel anger, sadness or grief as they struggle with daily life while suffering from a chronic illness. Additionally, patients may experience symptoms related to their chronic illness such as problems with their digestive system, difficulty breathing, pain, depression, or a change in family and social dynamics.

Palliative care is an area of medicine that focuses on these very issues. According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, palliative care is defined as specialized medical care for people with serious illness that focuses on providing relief from pain, symptoms and the stress of having a chronic illness, whatever the diagnosis.

The goal is to improve the quality of life of the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided alongside curative treatment.

Unfortunately many individuals with chronic illness do not receive palliative care services because of misconceptions that exist. Many people believe that palliative care is hospice care. While hospice care is a form of palliative care in that the main focus is to alleviate pain and suffering, hospice is provided in the last months of one’s life. Once an individual is on hospice care, curative treatments are no longer provided.

On the contrary, palliative care can be provided at any stage in one’s illness, not just at the end of life, and may be delivered even while curative treatments are being pursued. Research has shown that individuals who receive palliative care tend to live longer and have improved quality of life as compared to those individuals who only receive standard treatment for their illness.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital offers Pain and Palliative Care services. This service aims to improve the quality of life of the patients and families we serve. The Pain and Palliative Care team is comprised of two physicians who are board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, a nurse practitioner, pharmacist, social worker and chaplain. The team works alongside the patient’s attending physician while the patient is hospitalized. There is no charge for this service.

The Pain and Palliative Care team assists with symptom management, promotes communication to assist patients and families to make good decisions, allows the patient and family to decide what their goals of care are and addresses suffering (physical, spiritual/existential, psychological). Palliative care is appropriate at any age and stage of illness, and there are no time restrictions to receive this service.

Additionally, the Pain and Palliative Care team acts as a bridge between the hospital setting and the community by facilitating communication with the patient’s primary care provider. This communication promotes improved quality of care across health care settings.

For more information about Pain and Palliative Care services at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, visit lmh.org/palliative care or call 785-505-3286.

Janelle Williamson, APRN, NP-C, is the Pain and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at janelle.williamson@lmh.org.

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