Op/Ed

Living with dying: Palliative care offers many ways to help

DR. DIANNE BARNARD, left, is the Palliative Care Physician at UVM/Porter Medical Center and has been recently joined by Taylor Zak, Palliative Social Worker.

“I love working in palliative care because of its focus on the human connection; blending the best of medical care with the unique values and priorities of each patient” – Diana Barnard, MD
Patient driven care, this is the heart of palliative care, at a time when specialized medical care provides relief from symptoms and the stress of a serious illness. A team approach to care with a goal of improved quality of life for both patient and family, Palliative care can be provided at any phase of illness.
Here are some practical ways palliative care can help:
Goals of Care. Every person approaches their health and illness differently. We can help be sure you are fully informed about your medical condition and available treatment options. We help blend your unique values and the condition you have into a treatment plan that is right for you. We also help your family and the medical team understand the “how and why” of your plan.
Communication. We are trained in ways to translate complex medical language into words and ideas that make sense to patients and families with different backgrounds. Conversely, we work to translate individual patient and family values and priorities in ways that help your medical team understand what treatments make sense for you.
Symptom Management. Sometimes people living with serious illness have bothersome symptoms that affect your quality of life. Regardless of other treatments for your illness palliative care providers have specialty training to address symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain, fatigue, nausea. Treating these symptoms is very important for improving quality of life.
Collaboration. We are consultants who work together with all other medical providers involved in your care. Often in the setting of serious illness there are many clinicians involved and it’s important to take the time to coordinate medical treatments with both primary care providers as well as specialists. If needed, we can lead team family meetings to be sure your treatment team and family/loved ones are all “on the same page.”
Support. Living with serious illness often causes stress and uncertainty that can be overwhelming for patients as well as family and loved ones. We can help you manage your hopes and worries by listening, providing supportive counseling, identifying strengths and exploring coping strategies. We can meet with you as a family or as individuals to attend to everyone’s unique needs.
Advance Care Planning. We are knowledgeable about a variety of important advance care planning documents. In the setting of serious illness, these documents often need to be reviewed and updated as we help manage current health care needs and also make plans for future changes in your health.
Palliative Care is provided by an interdisciplinary team that can include physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and others who specialize in helping patients who are living with serious illness. It can be offered in different settings. Currently in Addison County Palliative Care is available at UVM Health Network Porter Medical Center and Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing. You can also receive Palliative Care at home through your Home Health provider.
Editor’s note: Dr. Barnard is the Palliative Care Physician at UVM/Porter Medical Center and has been recently joined by Taylor Zak, Palliative Social Worker.
This column is presented by the Living with Dying Partnership – an alliance between End of Life Services (formerly Hospice Volunteer Services and ARCH), Addison County Home Health & Hospice and UVM Health Network Porter Medical Center. The mission of this partnership is to create a framework for end-of-life care organizations to collaborate on our common goal of providing education about dying, death and options for care. For more information on this partnership, please call End of Life Services at 388-4111.

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