Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
The Riverside Care Difference is evident in the practice of Palliative Care throughout our organization. When someone has a serious illness, they first need to understand the diagnosis and learn what lies ahead. Then, patients and their families can talk about the quality of life that is important to them, and prepare for decisions that may lie ahead. Advance Care Planning is a service that is provided in Riverside hospitals, Home Care services and in Lifelong Health facilities. When symptoms become challenging, Palliative Care specialists can help to manage problems and guide patients and families through difficult situations.
At Riverside Regional Medical Center, the Advanced Illness Management Team (AIM) is available for consultation. The AIM Team at Riverside Regional Medical Center includes (from left to right in photo below): Dean Luther, Chaplain; Laura Cunningham, MD, Medical Director; Beth Widmaier, Palliative Care Coordinator; Julie Kilburn, Palliative Care Social Worker.
Laura Cunnington, MD, is the Medical Director for Palliative Care and Hospice Services at Riverside. Dr. Cunnington sees the role of a palliative medicine doctor as a true "family" physician, caring for the patient as well as the family. "We can accomplish so much by focusing on patients' goals and discussing their wishes and fears for the future. We can minimize suffering and maximize quality of life, ultimately helping each patient to meet their own personal goals." Under Dr. Cunnington' s direction palliative care practices are being implemented throughout Riverside.
Palliative Care can accompany curative treatment or it can become the focus of care in an advancing illness. In a life-limiting illness, the role for palliative care increases over time, until it becomes the only focus of care. At this time, Hospice provides supportive services are to the patient and family in their home, and assists with all of the challenges that this time of life can bring.