Haims: A different approach to palliative care services | VailDaily.com

Haims: A different approach to palliative care services

Judson Haims
Valley Voices

This past winter, the Vail Symposium held an event at the Edwards Interfaith Chapel that addressed Palliative Care.  Speaking at the event was an impressive group of health care experts from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Vail Health and Valley View Hospital.

One of the takeaways from the event is that our mountain communities are challenged in the delivery and education of palliative care.

Palliative care is specialized care for people living with a serious illness. It’s care that focuses on relieving symptoms associated with the patient’s condition while receiving active treatment. It differs from hospice care in that hospice is for patients with a limited life expectancy.

According to the Center to Advanced Palliative Care, U.S. hospitals with 50 or more beds, from 2000 to 2016, had a 178% increase in palliative care services. While it is great news that the presence and demand for palliative care has been on the rise, here in the mountain towns of Colorado, we have not been so fortunate.

Most people think that palliative care is only provided in cases of terminal illness, offering relief from physical symptoms of disease. But historically, palliative care has not been limited to terminal illness or physical symptoms. Rather, it has been available to care recipients of any life expectancy. What’s more, palliative care is not limited to physical symptoms. In fact, it can be used to address a wide range of physical and non-physical care needs, including a person’s emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

Many people are not aware of the health care resources available in the home. Within the Vail Valley, Home Care and Hospice of the Valley provides not only hospice care, but palliative care and at home medical care. Their services help many people who choose to live at home continue to remain at home.

Until recently, they may have been one of the only providers of palliative care. Soon, we will be certifying many of our care specialists in palliative care in order to provide greater access to this much-needed service. While we are a non-medical home care provider and limited in the services we can offer, we will be building relationships with providers throughout the valley who can assist us in the development of a comprehensive palliative care program.

We will base our Certified Palliative Care program on this collaborative approach to palliative care services. Rather than focus strictly on physical concerns, we will strive to provide care and comfort in a holistic manner. We will also operate with a broader definition of palliative care, one that goes beyond physical pain and discomfort.

Emotional, social and spiritual aspects of care

Within the home care industry, many care providers approach their work with a narrow focus. Their clients suffer from physical difficulties, like poor mobility, reduced strength, or chronic aches and pains. In response, caregivers focus on physical assistance. In doing so, they often neglect emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of care.

In neglecting these other aspects of care, they fail to address some of their clients’ most pressing needs. Age, physical disability, and chronic health conditions can devastate a person’s emotional well-being, disrupt their social life, or leave them feeling less-than-whole on a spiritual level. By only addressing a person’s physical care needs, caregivers can fail to impact a client’s overall quality of life.

As we further create our Certified Palliative Care program, we will strive to solve this issue. To do this, we will develop our program around a more holistic approach. Rather than focus solely on physical aspects of care, our program will educate our care specialists about the emotional, social, and spiritual side of caregiving. Further, for people with advanced dementia, a palliative care program can be individualized to meet the needs, values and preferences of the person and their family.

Our community needs to provide greater assistance, services, and education to families and care recipients who are trying to manage progressive and life-threatening illness. If you are part of an organization that can help us develop a collaborative program, we’d love to hear from you.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County.  He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.