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The Benefits of Palliative Care

Posted by Ari Berger, MD
Holy Name Medical Center's Palliative Medicine Team on November 12, 2019

Ari Berger, M.D., of Holy Name Medical Center's Palliative Medicine Team

Hearing you have cancer, another serious illness, or a chronic medical condition is overwhelming, but patients can live many years after being diagnosed. Anger, fear, stress, sadness, and depression are a few emotions that may accompany this diagnosis.

There is no right or wrong way to come to terms with it, but one thing is for sure: If you or someone you love has a serious or chronic illness, schedule a palliative care visit.

One of the major goals of Holy Name's palliative medicine team is to help patients experience the best therapies, pain relief, and support the entire time they are being treated.

Symptom Relief and Personal Care Goals

Just because you are going through treatment for cancer or another serious illness doesn't mean you should be in pain or have a poor quality of life. There is a misguided notion that if you are trying to cure your cancer then you have to ignore your quality of life, you have to ‘suffer through it.' That is not the case at all. As one major research study demonstrated, patients with advanced lung cancer who received early palliative care had better pain and symptom relief and also lived significantly longer than those who didn't.

Palliative care is specialized medical attention – for patients of all ages -- that focuses on improving quality of life while relieving pain and discomfort during treatment, possible recovery, or throughout a lifetime if a patient has a chronic medical condition.

Palliative care is about how you want to live, and we're here to help you do just that. Because palliative care is designed to complement a patient's treatment plan, we also discuss personal care preferences and goals. I've had so many patients say, ‘I wish I was referred to you sooner.'

Future Planning and Decision-Making

If a patient has an advanced illness, we can help him or her come to terms with it. Our team is trained to address questions about current care and what to expect in the future.

Advance care planning is always necessary. We make it a point to learn about the values and spiritual needs of every patient and family to ensure clear communication and to assist in the completion of advance directives, including a living will and healthcare proxy forms.

It's not always easy for patients to express their thoughts or to make final decisions, but we've found that as they start to prepare, the process can be therapeutic and, ultimately, will provide peace of mind for all.

Holy Name's Palliative Medicine Team

In addition to Dr. Berger, Holy Name's palliative medicine team includes co-director Richard Rosenbluth, MD, and advanced practice nurse Debra Roditski, APN-C. Medical social workers, pastoral care advisors, and other specialists are available as needed. For more information or to request a palliative care consultation, call 201-379-5610 or visit holyname.org/ForSeniors/Palliative.

Palliative care appointments can be made on the same day as an oncology visit or cancer treatment to make it more convenient and comfortable for patients. A consultation can be done while a patient receives chemotherapy or another infusion therapy to help optimize a patient's time at Holy Name.