SOURCE: Cambia Health Foundation

Weinstein PR

September 23, 2014 05:00 ET

Patients of All Ages and Stages of Illness Discovering the Benefits of Palliative Care

Growing Health Care Field Is Unknown to Many, While Those Who Experience Palliative Care Swear by Its Advantages

PORTLAND, OR--(Marketwired - September 23, 2014) - Palliative care, a field of specialized health care that provides a holistic approach to meet patient needs, has increasingly become an option for Americans facing a serious illness diagnosis. While many people are unaware of palliative care, more and more hospitals around the country are incorporating it into their programs. 

Palliative care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious health care situation, whatever the diagnosis. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to deliver an extra layer of support. Palliative care can help people of all ages and at any stage of an illness. 

Those who do know about palliative care often associate it with preparation for dying. But the truth is that many people benefit from palliative care when they are not facing a fatal situation. Palliative care can help patients and families navigate the health care system, take extra time for communication and address the many issues that come along with a serious illness.

On October 2, 2014 in Portland, Oregon, 10 physicians and nurses from around the country will each receive grants recognizing their innovative work in palliative care. Each of the 10, two-year, $180,000 grants being awarded will fund work that is likely to advance the field and increase access to physician training and awareness. The awards total $1.8 million will be given by the Cambia Health Foundation's Sojourns Scholars Leadership Program. See the complete profiles of the recipients here: Sojourns Awards Profiles.

The doctors and nurses being awarded grants work with patients of all ages and situations, including infants, stroke victims, patients with dementia, cancer and more.

Here are some of the real patients and their families these doctors and nurses have worked with in recent years:

  • Keith, a 59-year-old man from Madison, Wisconsin, had battled an unknown disease for three years. Keith and his family had seen an endless stream of doctors, tried experimental treatments and felt completely overwhelmed by their situation. Keith eventually developed a blood clot, which caused him to have a bad fall and the family was instantly faced with difficult decisions presented by uncompassionate doctors. When they were at the end of their rope, they met a palliative care physician named Dr. Toby Campbell. Dr. Campbell quickly connected with Keith and understood that he was ready to let go. In a series of events, the doctor helped communicate Keith's wishes to a large group of family and friends. He helped get Keith home, where he could be comfortable. And most importantly, he acted as Keith's advocate in the last weeks of his life. When it came time to turn off the breathing machine that was helping to keep him alive, Keith and his family insisted that Dr. Campbell be at their home with them; they even rescheduled the day of Keith's death when they learned that Dr. Campbell was scheduled to be out of town. Keith's family calls Dr. Campbell their angel.
  • Adam was 27 years old when he was in a major car accident in Bellingham, Washington that left him with a traumatic brain injury, broken vertebrae, broken ribs, and a destroyed elbow. The first 10 days after the accident were filled with one crisis after another, especially in relation to Adam's inner-cranial swelling. Dr. Caroline Hurd, a palliative care physician from Seattle, Washington, guided Adam's parents through incredibly difficult decisions about Adam's life and the possibility of his death. Today, Adam is living at home and has amazed doctors with his progress. Adam's parents say that Dr. Hurd provided them a map for Adam's care. They always knew where they were and in what directions they could head. Their palliative care experience provided support and direction at the most difficult time of their lives.
  • Jasna was 25 and perfectly healthy when she had a massive stroke. She was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where she had surgery to remove part of her skull to handle the swelling in her brain. She spent two months in the hospital undergoing intense rehab. A full year later, Jasna had a seizure and learned that she had developed an ongoing seizure disorder as a result of her stroke. It was then that she met Dr. Claire Creutzfeldt. Dr. Creutzfeldt helped Jasna manage her seizure mediations and cope with her day to day situation. She has also been a support to Jasna and her family as Jasna has learned to adapt to life with some disabilities. Dr. Creutzfeldt has guided Jasna with her job search and living situation, demonstrating that palliative care extends far beyond the doctor's office.

Cambia Health Foundation has been an advocate for palliative care since 2007, even before the specialty was recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2008. The Foundation focuses on increasing and supporting the palliative care workforce, which is a significant need. Today, there is approximately one palliative care medical professional for every 1,200 people facing serious illness. And as the baby boomer population ages, the need for palliative care will continue to grow. In addition to solidifying the future palliative care workforce, the Sojourns program also has the potential to increase general awareness for palliative care. As Americans are diagnosed with serious and chronic illnesses, many do not know what palliative care is or how to access it.

"We created the Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program to recognize and support future innovators and leaders in the field of palliative care, the outstanding doctors and nurses who are really making a difference for patients and families," said Peggy Maguire, President and Board Chair of the Cambia Health Foundation. "These award recipients are already actively working to advance the field of palliative care, and we hope that our investment will allow them to become the next generation of leaders who will help to improve quality, access and understanding at a crucial time in our nation's health care landscape."

"The Sojourns Scholar grant proposals demonstrated both growth and promise in the palliative care field," said Dr. Diane Meier, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care and one of the five national palliative care experts on the advisory committee that selected the 2014 Sojourn Scholars. "These physicians and nurses bring experience and perspective that will certainly influence the palliative care workforce for years to come. After spending a significant amount of time with each award recipient, we feel that the future of palliative care is in good hands."

About Cambia Health Foundation

Based in Portland, Oregon, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Founded in 2007, Cambia Health Foundation awards grants in three program areas: palliative and end-of-life care through the Foundation's signature program, Sojourns; Transforming Health Care; and Children's Health. Since 2007, the Foundation has funded more than $10 million in grants to support these causes. Through Sojourns, Cambia Health Foundation strives to advance patient- and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing and treating suffering. The Foundation is committed to: improving access to and quality of palliative care beyond the hospital setting through increased use of technology and expansion in nontraditional settings and rural areas; facilitating an open dialogue about end-of-life issues; strengthening the workforce to meet increased consumer demand; and recognizing leadership, innovation and inspiration in palliative care. Learn more at www.cambiahealthfoundation.org.

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