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New Center for Hospice Care - Backus Hospital Partnership offers Patients Choice of Care and Quality

Norwich, CT: Center for Hospice Care and Backus Hospital announced today that they are partnering in a new Palliative Care Program which serves hospital patients and their families who are confronting a life-limiting illness. 

The palliative care offered through this unique partnership is a specialized treatment option that combines advanced management of pain and symptoms, with enhanced quality of life for patients and families. 

“Patients with life limiting illnesses – such as cancer, heart or lung disease, and dementia – must contend with significant challenges as they seek to participate in their healthcare,” said Carol Mahier, President and CEO of Center for Hospice Care.  “They and their families can find themselves unaware of, or confused about, their options for treatment and care.  This can result in multiple hospital re-admissions and longer stays, which often lead to steeply diminished quality of life.  Our Palliative Care Program addresses all of these issues – while emphasizing quality of life.”

The new program is a consultative practice in the hospital, including staff from Hospice and Backus, which serves patients by:

  • Freeing physician to focus on their expertise in disease therapies, while our Palliative Care Team provides their patients with expert evaluation and management of pain and symptoms.
  • Educating patients and their families about the prognosis of their disease, and guiding them to informed choices of the care they decide to receive.
  • Collaborating with the patient’s primary care provider to enhance communications and coordination of care among healthcare providers.
  • Coordinating palliative care and other Center for Hospice Care services in the patient’s home, when the patient leaves the hospital.

James O’Dea, PhD, Hartford HealthCare Regional Director of Cancer Services, which includes Backus and Windham Hospitals , said the new program has been piloted for approximately two months, touching 54 patients.

“Palliative care can be so important to patients, their families and their loved ones,” O’Dea said. “This partnership combines hospital expertise with specially trained Hospice staff to improve the experience and quality of life for our patients in the hospital and when they go home. Everybody wins in this situation.”

Dr. John Foley, Medical Director of Cardiology at Backus and past-President of the Connecticut State Medical Society, said physicians have welcomed the program with open arms.

“I’m so glad they’re here,” Foley said.  “They are making such a difference in the lives of our patients.”

The Palliative Care Team includes Dr. Christopher Kolker who is certified in palliative care and hospice care and who comes to us through our longstanding partnership with UCFS, Program Director Lisa Besse, Advance Practice Nurses (APRNs) Cheryl Walker, Damaris Figueroa, and Jennifer Telford, and Social Worker Suzanne Smith.  They are trained and skilled in engaging patients and families in the difficult conversation pertaining to prognosis and treatment of their disease: that is, whether to continue with potentially painful or debilitating treatments that hold no chance of cure and little likelihood of significant improvement; or alternatively, to go home under palliative care, with or without further treatment of the disease.

“We help patients and families to understand their options and make good choices,” Program Director Lisa Besse said.  “Our goal and focus, after alleviating the patient’s pain and symptoms, is to enhance quality of life for the patient and family.” 

Carol Mahier added that, “We are committed to providing care to anyone who needs it and meets the qualifications, even if they are un- or under-insured, and are unable to pay.”

Two case stories provide a feel for how the program works:

Nick is 74 years old, with end-stage heart disease.  When our Palliative Care Team first met him in the hospital, he was unsure whether to continue with treatment or to go home.  He was also unsure whether to maintain his DNR (do not resuscitate order) – John’s wife prefers him to rescind the order.  However, when asked what his personal goals were, without hesitation he invoked quality of life.  He talked of wanting to drive his pick-up truck, of visiting his family’s goat farm, and above all, of having quality time with his family.  So, John made his choices.  He is now at home, enjoying life.  Though he has rescinded his DNR, he has entered into hospice care.  As part of his care, he is having massage therapy, which we provide free of charge as part of the complementary therapies offered to all hospice patients.  And John is giving his truck a regular work out.

Frank, 94, was brought to the hospital after a fall, which broke his hip.  He was also suffering from a gastro-intestinal bleed when our Palliative Care Team met him.  Exploratory surgery was an option.  But apprised of his choices, Ed chose to go home to the skilled nursing facility where he lived in a sunny room with his wife of 71 years.  Shortly after arriving home, he died with his beloved by his side – as he and she had wanted.

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Posted on July 21, 2014

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