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UnityPoint continues to provide palliative care

-Submitted photo
The palliative care team at UnityPoint Health - Fort Dodge poses at the hospital. Back row: Kris Marvin, Paula Ayala, Amber Nowell, Brenda Oberhelman, Sue Mileham and Dr. Kari Swisher. Front row: Angela Eastwood, Amy Palmer and Danielle Berglund.

UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge is proud to be celebrating 10 years of providing palliative care within our region this year. In that time, we have grown from a three-person inpatient team to a team of 16 providers. However, if you haven’t heard of palliative care, or often confuse it with hospice, you’re not alone. Being aware of it for you and your loved ones can ensure the medical care you receive is what you really want.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is medical care for patients with serious or life-limiting medical conditions. This type of treatment involves a holistic approach to patients’ conditions. The focus is on education, comfort, symptom management and quality of life by managing symptoms, such as pain, shortness of breath, anxiety or nausea. Overall, the goal of palliative care is to create a “goals of care plan” that honors patients’ wishes, making sure they know they have control of their medical future. Sometimes, just listening, answering questions and honest discussion of a prognosis is helpful.

Palliative care has been shown and validated in numerous studies to improve quality of life for patients and families, relieve symptoms, reduce cost of care and possibly prolong life. There is no study that demonstrates any reduction of lifespan by having a palliative care intervention.

When is palliative care needed?

Palliative care is appropriate for patients with various illnesses including COPD, heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, liver disease, kidney disease or cancer. There is no age limit. Palliative medicine providers see all types of patients, from expectant parents experiencing an abnormal pregnancy to patients over 100 years of age.

A palliative care evaluation can be helpful for patients with frequent hospital admissions or clinic visits, complex medical needs, global decline in function, transition to or need for a higher level of care, or a need to help with discussion about advanced directives and advanced care planning.

Who is on the palliative care team?

Palliative medicine is a medical specialty. Like cardiology or pulmonology, palliative care providers receive additional training in this field and are often certified. Physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, nurses, chaplains and other therapists are all part of the palliative care team. With this interdisciplinary team working with the patient and family, they are able to address the physical symptoms, as well as the emotional, spiritual, psychosocial and economic aspects of serious illness. UnityPoint Health ‚ Fort Dodge has both inpatient and outpatient palliative care teams.

Palliative care vs hospice care

Hospice and palliative care are not the same. Hospice care is a service that provides palliative care for terminally ill patients. In other words, all hospice care is palliative care; however, the opposite is not always true.

Hospice care is for patients who have terminal illness with an expected prognosis of six months or less, if the illness follows the usual course. This generally means hospice patients will not return to the hospital, not receive IV medications, other than symptom relief medicines, and not continue chemotherapy or dialysis. Palliative care is a medical specialty, in which no treatment option or aggressive intervention is ruled out as long as it aligns with the patient’s condition and goals of care.

Why palliative care is important?

Palliative care is important because it gives patients a voice to participate in their medical care and honors patients’ wishes, making sure they know they have control of their medical future.

Where is Palliative Care Provided?

As UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge continues to be creative and innovative in delivering palliative care services, we remain committed to our patients and their needs. Beginning January 2021, the Palliative Care Clinic will be located at the UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine — Second Avenue North location. However, the palliative care team provides care at the following places:

• Trinity Regional Medical Center

• Trinity Cancer Center

• Your home

• Nursing home

• Virtual visits

• Our family medicine clinics (Humboldt, Fort Dodge and Sac City)

Is A Referral Needed for Palliative Care?

If you’re interested in palliative care, just ask! Consult with your UnityPoint Health primary care provider or specialist and figure out where you should go for information and a consultation.

Brenda Oberhelman is an advanced registered nurse practitioner in palliative care.

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