(MARQUETTE) A free public presentation to discuss palliative care – what it is and why it is important – was held Tuesday at UP Health System – Marquette. Arif Kamal, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in palliative care, addressed those in attendance.
Serious illness is often life altering. In such cases, “palliative care” addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual health of both patient and the patient’s family. Palliative care combined with standard medical care in complex cases significantly improves outcomes and quality of life.
UP Health System – Marquette will launch a palliative care program this fall, starting with intensive care unit patients but over time with plans to be available to all patients at the hospital.
Dr. Kamal is assistant professor of medicine, Division of Medical Oncology and Duke Palliative Care, Duke University Medical Center, in North Carolina. In addition to the public presentation, Dr. Kamal plans to present at the annual Upper Great Lakes Palliative Care and Hospice Conference, and conduct caregiver education at UPHS – Marquette.
Lake Superior Hospice Medical Director Dr. Larry Skendzel, organizer of the Upper Great Lakes conference, initiated the palliative care program at Jacobetti Veterans Facility and is a strong local advocate for palliative care expansion in the region.
Dr. Skendzel explained that many people confuse palliative care with hospice end of life care.
“Hospice is different in that it is care provided intensively in the last weeks to months of life,” said Dr. Skendzel. “Palliative care is provided anytime a person develops a serious illness and deals with issues such as long-term medical treatment planning, stress and family issues. Palliative care is provided far more upstream. It can be applied anytime at any stage of a serious, potentially life altering disease and deals with physical, emotional and spiritual quality of life.”
Dr. Skendzel said he believes Dr. Kamal’s visit to Marquette will “raise awareness and potential for this extra layer of support for those families dealing with serious illness.”
UPHS – Marquette Cancer Program Medical Director Dr. Philip Lowry emphasizes the importance of palliative care not just for cancer patients, but for all patients with serious diseases.
“Combining palliative care with our traditional approaches is one of the most important advances in our role as the UP region’s tertiary care center,” he said. “We want our patients to know that their treatment options encompass the full spectrum of modalities they would find at the finest urban medical facilities.”
UP Health System joined the Duke Cancer Network in 2014. Programs such as these represent the important opportunity that Duke brings to affiliated hospitals to strengthen their care capabilities.
World Health Organization Definition of Palliative Care:
Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.
· provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
· affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
· intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
· integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
· offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
· offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
· uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
· will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
· is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and
· includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.