Is it Time for Palliative Care?
By Wayne Anderson, M.D., M.P.H., Suncoast Hospice Palliative Care Physician
The number one question I’m asked is, “What do you do as a palliative care doctor?” A primary part of my job is listening.
In my five years as a Suncoast Hospice palliative care physician doing consults in the hospital, I’ve heard wonderful stories from patients and families. Couples married for 65 years to those looking forward to their first anniversaries have shared their stories with me. Some people have told me the names of all their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and even a few great-great-grandchildren.
I’ve listened when patients and families need to talk about their feelings. Parents wonder if they’ll see their children graduate from high school or get married. Those who have cancer express concern about losing their hair and experiencing nausea and pain. Others worry about what will happen to their loved ones or how they can help their aging parents.
Education & Coordination of Care
When someone is faced with a serious diagnosis his or her entire world is turned upside down. He or she may ask, “What do I do?” Too many times patients are told by their doctors what they need to do. Oftentimes patients are unaware of the options they have for their treatment. They need their doctors to help them understand all of the options of care and to understand who they are as people.
One option is palliative care – a type of medical care focused on improving the quality of life for patients with chronic or advanced illnesses and their families. Palliative care is an extra resource that works together with the patient’s own physicians to form a plan of care that’s medically sound and fits the patient’s wishes. Palliative care can sometimes include therapies that are designed to bring comfort. Unlike hospice care, palliative care is not confined to the final months of life.
As a palliative care physician, I want to know what my patients actually understand about their diseases. I spend time with them so I can understand their concerns, fears, wishes and goals.
It’s my hope that you’re never faced with difficult medical decisions. However, if you or a loved one is unsure of what to do about care, perhaps talking with a palliative care physician or other care team member may help. We don’t have all the answers, but we’ll work with you to find a level of care that’s right for you.
To learn more about Suncoast Hospice’s palliative care, call 727-HOSPICE (467-7423) or visit suncoasthospice.org.
Wayne Anderson, M.D., M.P.H., is part of the Suncoast Hospice palliative care consult service at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. Dr. Anderson did his residencies in family medicine and surgery at University of South Florida. He’s certified from the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and American Board of Family Medicine. He’s a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.