By Sharon Adams, CIVHC Community Engagement Manager
Think for a moment about times when you have not been well and what brings you comfort. Often it is the presence of family, friends and caregivers who appreciate the necessity of focusing on us in ways that enable our return to wellbeing. If we are fortunate, the times we are sick and lack the capacity to fully function in our day-to-day lives are infrequent and resolve in short-order. The good days far outnumber the bad.
But for those of us with serious illnesses, possibly chronic and complex conditions, the opposite may be the case. That is when Palliative Care (pronounced pal-lee-ut-tiv), care focused on providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of serious illness, whatever the diagnosis, ideally come into play. The goal of Palliative Care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of physicians, nurses and other caregivers (including family and friends) who work with those in need to improve quality of life. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. You can find Colorado’s Definition of Palliative Care in Colorado Statute.
Because hospice organizations have long provided palliative care, there is often a tendency to combine the idea of palliative care with hospice or end-of-life care. However, Palliative Care can and does stand on its own as a remarkable example of patient and family-centered care targeted to optimize quality of life by anticipating, preventing and treating suffering. Palliative Care throughout the course of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information and choice. Palliative care can be provided in addition to curative treatments and is provided in private homes, skilled care facilities, assisted living communities, hospitals and other settings.
There are also a growing number of physicians certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine as a specialty. They often practice alongside nurse practitioners, licensed social workers, registered nurses and care navigators who focus on improving quality of life for individuals with serious disease. Colorado has many nationally recognized physician leaders in Palliative Care and there are national organizations that champion Palliative Care if you are interested in learning more. Two such organizations include, The Center to Advance Palliative Care, whose focus is Palliative Care innovation, development and growth, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization which operates under this incredible vision statement: A world where individuals and families facing serious illness, death, and grief will experience the best that humankind can offer.
Frequently, it is the human side of Palliative Care that gets the most attention, and rightly so. However, there are also economic returns on investment to be realized with the wide-spread adoption of life enhancing Palliative Care and robust Advance Care Planning. As a locally and nationally recognized Palliative Care advocate and through data support in our role as administrator of the Colorado All Payer Claims Database (CO APCD) CIVHC is honored to elevate and promote the accomplishments of Colorado’s Palliative Care community.
CIVHC regularly convenes health systems, providers, hospice and palliative care organizations, palliative care providers, community based organization, payers, membership associations, state government, home health and long-term care organizations, quality improvement and health information exchange experts, and invested individuals interested in advancing Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning.
Three work groups meet regularly and focus on Advance Care Planning; Provider Training and Skill Building; and Reimbursement and Policy. If you would like to learn more about work group participation, please email email@example.com.
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