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Palliative Care Focuses on Family, Quality of Life

Nov 27, 2017 03:45PM ● Published by Alex Strauss

The addition of a full-time physician dedicated to the Hand in Hand palliative care program at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is bringing the multidisciplinary, team-driven service to more area patients and their families.             

In the first three months after the arrival of Meaghann Weaver, MD, MPH, Children’s Specialty Physicians, Hematology/Oncology & Palliative Care last fall, the number of palliative care consultations at Children’s rose from an average of three per month to a total of 110. The number of patients in the program has now risen from 10 per day to approximately 25 per day.        

“We are seeing a definite and growing need for these services,” says Dr. Weaver, who describes palliative care as “whole person care” for children with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses.

Pediatric palliative care focuses on the prevention and relief of suffering through early identification, attentive assessment and compassionate treatment of pain and other symptoms. Not limited to terminal conditions, the Hand in Hand palliative care program at Children’s begins with the diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.

“It is a misconception that we are called in only when the situation is hopeless,” says Andrew MacFadyen, MD, medical director of Children’s Palliative Care team. “In reality, the earlier we become involved, the more good we can do for the patient and the family.”

The Hand in Hand team offers a variety of inpatient consultative services including, but not limited to, plan of care creation; integrative therapies such as Healing Touch, massage therapy, and aromatherapy; emotional, spiritual and decision-making support; advanced care planning; attentiveness to caregiver resilience; hospice and bereavement support; pain and symptom management and the longitudinal coordination of healthcare and community resources.

Weaver says the team partners with patients, families, and primary care physicians to coordinate services aimed at supporting quality of life.  

“We don’t just ask the parents’ opinion. We include the patient’s voice,” Dr. Weaver says. “We can have a much greater impact on symptom management if we know not only how the child feels but also what is important to them.” The team also involves siblings and grandparents in its caregiving approach.

“Our goal is not to add to the family’s burden, but to lighten the load as much as we can.”” says Dr. MacFadyen.

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