"The good news is that people are living longer. But as the U.S. population ages, more and more of the elderly live with chronic, treatable - but incurable diseases," said Kitzes. "While technology is responsible for these increases in lifespan, we are finding that more and more, people are terrified of the act of dying of discussing it and of participating as a family member or patient.
In palliative care, the value of compassionate communication cannot be overstated, she said.
Patients and family members look to physicians not only for knowledge and technical skill throughout the course of a terminal illness, but also for guidance, reassurance, and hope," said Kitzes.
But, in these times of an emphasis on containing cost and reducing hospital stays, expanding a medical perspective to effectively include end of life decisions made jointly by the patient and members of his or her family may mean making a mental shift in how health professionals deal effectively with issues.
"It may mean having to wait an extra day as the family assembles from out of town or out of state," said Kitzes. "But it is important to honor this process. We want to train our physicians to be able to recognize these circumstances and to be able to take the lead in dealing with patients, their families and the medical team as these decisions are made."
The two year grant will include medical school training as well as outreach continuing education programs that physicians from throughout the state can access.
Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322