After living in a state of crisis and ending up in the hospital again and again and again, a man with advanced heart failure found comfort not from a miracle drug, but palliative care. His palliative care team helped control his symptoms and calm the extreme peaks and valleys of his disease. In the first six months after beginning palliative care, he went to the hospital just once.
That’s the power of Pallitus Health Partners, a community-based palliative care brand launched in January by Hosparus Health, long one of the most trusted healthcare names in Louisville and throughout Kentucky. Confusion over the difference between hospice and palliative care — the former available in the final six months of life, the latter for anyone with a life-limiting illness no matter what their prognosis — can cause some to overlook the support, symptom management and other benefits that palliative care can bring.
“In healthcare we should be hearing from the patient and their family — what matters most in establishing their goals, and then ensuring we're going to meet them on every step of that journey,” says Dr. Bethany Snider, Chief Medical Officer. “Pallitus provides another option for people. They might have a life-limiting illness, but they still want to pursue those aggressive treatments and potentially curative interventions. This gives them a path to get that extra support focused on their quality of life and their symptoms burden, and without having to give up those other things.”
To Thrive, Not Just Survive
Palliative care allows people with serious illness to manage pain and live more comfortable lives — to thrive, rather than simply survive. Dr. Snider recalls a patient with advanced cancer who contacted Pallitus suffering from pain, nausea, trouble breathing, fatigue and lack of sleep. Pallitus worked with the patient’s oncologist to better manage symptoms stemming from both the disease and the treatment, improving quality of life in the process.
Palliative care is available to anyone of any age, even children suffering from chronic illnesses, and is typically covered by insurance.
“Palliative care should walk with people for years when they’re facing chronic or advanced illness,” Dr. Snider says. “They can still pursue all those same treatments and interventions, and receive the care that they want for their disease, but receive this extra layer of support that’s really trying to focus on their symptoms, their burden, the stress of the illness, and really wrapping them in this extra layer of support to help them manage their journey as the illness may progress.”
That support can include not just physicians and nurses, but also chaplains, social workers and mental health professionals. “When there are social needs that need attention, and sometimes that's the predominant need, the social worker steps in and helps provide that support. When we identify spiritual needs, we have chaplains that provide support,” Dr. Snider says. “Living is way more complicated than physical needs; it's emotional, spiritual, psychosocial, all of those things wrapped in one. And if we don't address each of them, we're never going to be as successful as we want to be in meeting their goals.”
Contrary to one stubborn myth, palliative care patients do not have to forego their own physicians. “From a provider's perspective, they want to know that we're not coming in to take over. And families want to know that too, right?” Dr. Snider says. “It's important. We are that extra layer of support for those individuals and their families dealing with illness. And we coordinate with their providers to help meet their health goals and optimize their quality of life.”
Meeting Patients Where They Are
Dr. Snider tells patients she doesn’t have an office — she works wherever she’s needed. One of the more valuable facets of Pallitus Health Partners is that they go to the patients, usually performing their work in homes to help ease the burden of a chronic illness. Pallitus would rather patients spend their time at home doing things that bring them joy, rather than in a waiting room or doctor’s office.
“Being able to step into the environment of a patient and really get an appreciation for what their challenges are, what their limitations might be — that is so impactful in how we drive their plan of care,” Dr. Snider says. “Because truly, care should be patient-centered, right? And the only way that I as a specialist am going to be able to appreciate that is if I really walk alongside them, really get to understand what makes it hard for them to get to the doctor, to manage all these medicines, or the other things at play that are needing their attention.”
If disease progression makes hospice an option, Hosparus is there. Although hospice is available for anyone with a medical prognosis of six months or less, most patients use it only for about two weeks — denying themselves and their families a higher quality of life. After all, that’s what Pallitus Health Partners and Hosparus Health are both all about: helping patients with serious disease get the most out of living.
“We can build relationships and trust with families, and we make that transition to hospice sooner so that they get months of hospice care, as opposed to days or weeks of hospice care,” Dr. Snider says. “Pallitus is giving us an opportunity to meet these people sooner in their life, so we can build those relationships and have conversations when they’re not in crisis about what’s important to them and what they want their life to look like.”
Interested in exploring what palliative care may be able to offer you or a loved one? Contact Pallitus Health Partners at (502) 814-5408, or visit their website at PallitusHealth.org for further information.