Palliative services: A supportive care umbrella | Coming of Age…Again

  • Monday, October 23, 2017 2:56pm
  • Opinion

By Don Desonier

Dementia caregiver coach and family mediator

When Pam was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she, her husband Eric and their two adult daughters, were in shock. Pam had been, as Eric liked to say, “in fine fettle” — happy, full of life and the picture of good health. No one expected this. Fear, anxiety and dread descended on the entire family as they faced the grave uncertainty of this diagnosis.

Following a referral from their primary care physician, Pam and Eric had their initial appointment with their oncologist. When they shared with her the relentless stress they were experiencing, the oncologist strongly suggested they explore palliative services. She explained that palliative care would address their worries and concerns and a whole lot more.

Eric and Pam had heard of palliative care, but assumed that meant hospice care if Pam was diagnosed with six or less months to live. They certainly weren’t ready for that. Their oncologist told them this was a common misconception and set up a referral consult for them with a palliative care specialist at a nearby health center.

Eric and Pam were quickly assured by the specialist that palliative care services were available to the entire family at the time of diagnosis of a serious illness. Pam’s cancer diagnosis certainly fit that criteria and this was regardless of the trajectory of her illness. The specialist explained that a palliative care team of professionals would help them clarify their care goals, to ensure all medical care and treatment intervention options they chose throughout Pam’s illness would honor those goals. This was especially important to Pam and Eric as they were concerned about the impact on Pam of potentially needless and ineffective — and costly — treatment interventions. They were also told that pain control, physical comfort, access to outside community resources and ensuring coordination among Pam’s various care providers were also part of the palliative care support available to them.

To their immense relief, Pam and Eric soon found themselves surrounded by a palliative care team that included a hospice medical director, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, certified nurse assistant and hospice and palliative care volunteer. They also knew that spiritual care was available if desired, along with bereavement services. Finally, they were told that if Pam was ever diagnosed with six months or less to live, hospice could be engaged, with the proviso that curative treatment could no longer be provided.

Here are a few excellent and invaluable informational resources in Washington state for palliative and hospice care services, and at Medicare.gov for Medicare coverage:

End of Life Washington: endoflifewa.org/end-life-options-2

Washington State Hospice & Palliative Care Organization: wshpco.org

EvergreenHealth: www.evergreenhealth.com/palliative-care

Medicare.gov: www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospice-and-respite-care.html

“Coming of Age… Again” is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the City of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to help improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership is open throughout the year.

More in Opinion

MIchelle Metzler
Secrets to a sustainable summer | Guest Column

What can you do to help sustain a healthy recycling system in our community?

Pak headshot
Freedom to feel safe | Reporter’s Desk

Let’s not forget that July 4 is a day that celebrates the freedoms we have in this country.

For breakfast | From Kirkland to Quito

The sierran Ecuadorian concept of breakfast food is more savory and open to interpretation.

State Dems may abandon caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

Signature of registered voter is a coveted commodity

The competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

Photo by Matt Phelps
President, governor or retirement — only Inslee knows his plan

What we do know is that he’s off to Iowa in June to deliver the keynote address at a party fundraiser.

It’s time to make Western Washington coal-free | Guest Column

For Washington to be a true climate leader, PSE needs to get out of the coal business.

Cleaning up the complex | Guest Column

Solving the multifamily recycling puzzle.

Reporter Raechel Dawson says farewell to journalism career

Eastside journalist moves on after six years in field.

Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
                                Photo by Michael O’Leary/Everett Herald
Eyman says he will spend $500K of his own money on initiative

The conservative activist’s self-financing claim points to a lack of deep-pocketed donors.

Learning to manage emotions with Dialectical Behavior Therapy | YES

Explore the model that’s helping thousands of teens in YES’ care get on track to a healthier life.

Major changes coming to I-405 — your input is critical | From the Council

Open house about project set for April 26 at Lake Washington High School.