Connecticut Hospice, America’s premier provider of hospice care, is now a leader in palliative care. Unknown to many, palliative care extends far beyond comfort care provided to people at the end of life, and encompasses a broad approach to the care of seriously ill people, including those still receiving conventional medical treatment. Primary to palliative care – also known as palliative medicine – is helping people with advanced illness and their families better understand their condition and the range of options available to them, from the most aggressive – such as surgery, chemo- and/or immunotherapy, and radiation — to hospice only. In doing so, the trained palliative care physicians and advanced practice registered nurses at Connecticut Hospice empower people with advanced illness to choose care in keeping with their goals and values, rather than that which can sometimes feel like it has been imposed by a medical system without their full understanding or consent. As important to palliative care as counseling is expert level, aggressive management of pain and other adverse symptoms – no one who is in pain can be expected to understand the complexities of advanced illness and all of its possible treatments. The completion of advance directives is a third pillar of palliative care, providing direction to all involved in a patient’s care as to specific wishes for care – such as use of life support – should the patient lose the ability to direct his or her own care. Finally, palliative care practitioners provide medical care; routine interventions such as ordering and interpreting labs, diagnosing acute conditions such as UTIs and pneumonia, and providing treatment for these conditions.
Our palliative care practitioners visit people at home for palliative care consultations.
Many organizations claim to provide palliative care. Most limit their “palliative” interventions to symptom management. What sets Connecticut Hospice apart is not only our strict adherence to the much broader definition of palliative care, but our 53 bed licensed inpatient hospital in Branford. This facility allows our patients not only the option for admission for rapid control of symptoms that cannot be accomplished at home, but the option for medical management in a setting that allows them a degree of comfort rare in conventional inpatient settings. In Branford, we do not wake patients for vital signs or blood tests, we liberalize diets, we allow families 24/7 visiting (and cots to sleep in), we emphasize symptom management, and we turn out the lights and turn down the noise at night. Patients are invited to enjoy a “stroll in bed” to our beautiful waterfront, and can even enjoy the alcoholic beverage of their choosing.
Medical management, while not as extensive as that offered in conventional inpatient settings, is extensive, and included most routine blood tests and x-rays, EKG, IV fluids and IV medications, anticoagulation, and others. Ultrasound guided procedures such as paracentesis, thoracentesis, and line placement will be offered in the spring.
Typically, palliative care is offered to those people enrolled in our Stand By Me home care program, who, unlike those in our hospice program, are still seeking conventional medical treatment for their illnesses.