UNM Health Sciences New Palliative Care Program:

When faced with a serious or life-threatening illness, patients, families and their medical teams often feel struggle to find what is “best care” while weighing out complex medical decisions.

Palliative Care is a new medical specialty that focuses on the relief of suffering-physical, psychological, social and spiritual- which patients and families dealing with life threatening illness may experience.

Palliative care providers work closely with a patient’s medical team in the hospital to provide the best care possible, by relieving physical and emotional symptoms, improving communication and decision-making and coordinating care across settings.

Palliative care is not hospice care. Hospice is a medical benefit and limited to the last six months of a person’s life when the goals of care are comfort focused rather than curative. In contrast, palliative care is a consultation service provided in the hospital which is provided in conjunction with curative care, and continues to follow patients and their families even if cure is not possible.

“Many people think this a type of care to turn to when other medical professionals can no longer help, but that’s not true,” said Lisa Marr, M.D., Section Chief, Palliative Care, in the Division of Geriatrics. “It’s actually better when we can be brought in early rather than later to develop a relationship with patients and families and provide support across their illness continuum. “

Even if attempts to cure the underlying illness are not successful, and it may seem that ‘there is nothing more we can do,’ there is a lot the palliative care team can do to improve quality of life for patients and families.”

Who is a candidate? Patients with serious or life threatening illness that have difficult to control symptoms, such as pain, nausea, etc., need help with complex decision making or discharge options, and/or education about end of life care.

Palliative care also helps the medical team and patient set goals of care based on the patient’s understanding of the condition and the choices for medical care that are available.

Palliative Care as a board certified medical specialty is new since 2006. Joining Marr in the new section are Dr. Devon Neale and Carrie Klotz, Palliative Advanced Nurse Practitioner.

To receive a consultation from the palliative care team, a referral from the patient’s physician is necessary. However, Marr says, “We welcome questions from patients, family members and other medical providers” to discuss palliative care and provide education.”

A call for palliative care consultation can provide:

· Guidance for difficult treatment choices

· Expert treatment of pain and symptoms

· Close communication and compassionate care

· Help in navigating the healthcare system

· Emotional and spiritual support for patients and families · The honoring and support of cultural/ethnic values.

The team can be contacted at 272-4868.

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