Palliative medicine is specialized medical care for people with a serious illness that is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, and improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. The palliative care team works in partnership with your own doctor to provide an extra layer of support for you and your family. During a serious illness, a lot can happen in a short amount of time and the information can get jumbled. The palliative care team acts as a bridge between the complex world of medicine and you.
At Cone Health, palliative care specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team to coordinate patient care. Palliative team members look at the family and patient as a unit, and try to treat them as a whole. The team provides extra time for communication to make sure you, your loved ones and caretakers understand everything: the illness, medication and treatment. They help advocate for the patient’s wishes with physicians and with the family, and may help the family process options or foster understanding when family members disagree. Serious illness can bring out a mixture of emotions, and the palliative care team can walk the family through the disease process and help patients and their loved ones understand each other.
Caring for someone with a chronic illness can be a full-time job, which is why the palliative care team also offers psychological and emotional support to relieve some of the burden of caregiving and reduce caregiver burnout. They may also refer families to counseling if there are issues that may need more time to work through before the family reconcile. Presently, patients in our community have access to palliative care in an inpatient setting and in some outpatient clinics, while area hospices begin to develop in-home programs that offer home visits. Cone Health has partnered with area hospices to form a palliative care medical team that blends expertise from both organizations.
Mary Larach is a nurse practitioner for the palliative medicine team at Cone Health. Mary has been involved with hospice and palliative medicine for five years. She received her Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1994 and her Master of Science in nursing in 2004, both from University of North Carolina at Greensboro.