When a loved one nears the end of his or her life, it can be a sad and difficult time. It may even seem like there’s no roadmap for getting through those challenging last days.
For a long time, that’s how Gig Harbor resident Marianne Reed felt. Her husband, Lloyd, 85, suffers from dementia. “He would tell me that he was ready to die, but he was afraid of death,” Marianne says. “I didn’t know what to do. He was depressed and I felt stuck.”
Marianne’s daughter, who is a nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, suggested palliative care.
Palliative care is a service that helps support a patient and his or her family toward the end of life with whatever medical services or social resources they need most, says Georganne Trandum, RN, clinical division manager of Palliative Care Services at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. “Palliative care is for patients at risk of passing away in one to two years from a life-threatening illness. Hospice care is for patients who are within the last six months of life.”
Palliative care often begins with a visit from a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. You may not have met this person before, but you will get to know them well. He or she will perform a comprehensive physical assessment and will speak with the patient and his or her family to find out what else may be needed from a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual standpoint.
For Marianne and Lloyd, that meant meeting with a social worker as well as a chaplain. “They helped us focus on living the life we have now to the fullest,” Marianne says.
At Franciscan, palliative care providers take the time and care to get to know your family and find out what you need and what will make a difference for you. This can include having warm meals delivered to your home or getting help with chores, Georganne says. This is in addition to the expert-level medical care you receive from your regular Virginia Mason Franciscan Health provider.
“The help we’ve received through palliative care has allowed me to stop feeling like Lloyd’s caregiver all the time and to feel like I can be his wife again,” Marianne says. “In fact, I used the word ‘joy’ last night for the first time in years.”