WICHITA FALLS, TX– Hearing the news that you have a potentially fatal disease is always a tough pill to swallow for not only the patient, but for their families as well. Making that transition from regular hospital care to something more serious requires a palliative care program: something senior director of health improvement, Michelle Nelson says has blossomed at United Regional.
“We kicked off palliative care in august of 2009,” said Nelson. “We have grown it into a program that sees about 3,000 patients a year.”
Many of these patients have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart failure or cancer and have gone into more advanced stages of the diseases. It’s at this point, the palliative care program can step in and help navigate the patient’s understanding the disease prognosis. This is also where an important document comes in called an Advance Directive, which can be found here.
“It’s a document in the state of Texas that allows a patient to pick out a power of attorney,” said Nelson. “The directive to physician outlines specifically the things that the patient would or would not want in a critical acute care setting, whether it’s life support, CPR, being intubated…so it allows the patient to think ahead and say these are the things I’m ok with receiving and these are things I do not want to receive.”
This palliative care program also works closely with Hospice of Wichita Falls and the Transition Clinic to provide extra care and resources to those in need.
Nelson says, “You come to the point where you realize it’s time for the hospice level of care. They do such an amazing job with symptom management, there’s so much support for the family and the patient and it just makes the quality of life so much better. The transition clinic is very much involved in the advance care planning process and palliative care process…one of the providers over there will sit down with a patient and go over their understanding of their disease process and then help them navigate that advanced decision making process.”
April 16th is National Healthcare Decision Day, Nelson says take this day to talk to loved ones if you’re thinking about palliative care. More information can be found here.