In the last two years since HHC invested $3 million to expand Palliative Care services, more than 8,000 New Yorkers and their families have been helped to learn their options and find hope and comfort. Donna Leno-Gordon, R.N., Director of Behavioral Health Nursing at Coney Island Hospital and one of HHCs palliative medicine experts, shares some insights about this specialty service for patients with serious chronic or advanced illness.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a philosophy of health care delivered by a multi-skilled team of doctors, nurses, psychologists, chaplains and ethicists that makes a difference in the lives of patients and their families by addressing their many needs, including pain, anxiety and decreasing independence. Its rooted in four principles: comfort to treat pain; support to help with decisions and planning; dignity for individual regardless of life stage, and hope for a quality of life.
Who needs Palliative Care?
Everyone knows someone in their life who could have benefitted from this kind of care. We help individuals facing a serious illness that medicine doesn't expect to fully cure and address their pain and discomfort. We also assist patients who are already in an advanced stage of their illness to understand their options for treatment and decide which to accept and which may not help meet their end of life goals. And we support families they are key to every stage of this process.
So, its not just for patients who have very little time to live?
No, that's a common myth. On the contrary, in some cases we help extend life with quality. Some patients suffer from progressive debilitating illness from which their life is not immediately threatened, but can benefit from palliative care to increase their comfort and quality of life, as well as assist in future planning. At Metropolitan Hospital, HHC has a special outpatient clinic that serves individuals who are managing serious symptoms from incurable cancer, heart disease, AIDS and other conditions.
Is Palliative Care different from Hospice?
Yes. Palliative Care may help many people with serious or advanced illness. It can provide help at the start of the illness and continues to help all the way through even while powerful treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and strong antibiotics are given. Hospice is a special kind of Palliative Care for people who accept they may be near the end of life and do not wish to have any difficult treatments or tests.
How can patients access Palliative Care services at HHC?
Just ask your doctor. Any patient, a family member or a member of the hospital staff can ask the doctor to decide if Palliative Care is the right choice. The services are available in all our 11 hospitals. And they do not have to stop seeing their own doctor or nurse. Our Palliative Care teams will work together with the main providers and provide advice.