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New! Palliative care for patients at home

Providing enhanced symptom management for patients at home across Greene, Oconee and Clarke counties

Athens, Ga. – St. Mary’s Health Care System is expanding its successful hospital-based palliative care program by bringing palliative care to patients in their homes across Athens-Clarke, Oconee, and Greene Counties starting Aug. 5.

Education is part of St. Mary’s In-Home Palliative Care Program. Here, Nurse Practitioner Laura Moon reviews heart failure education materials with Public Relations Manager Mark Ralston

Palliative care is a medical specialty that helps people living with sudden or chronic illness. Care is provided by a team of expert specialists lead by a physician, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers and chaplains. Services aim to provide relief from the symptoms and stresses of illness. The goal is to improve quality of life by focusing on the things in life that are most important to the patient and their family.

“A lot of people confuse palliative care with hospice care, but they are very different specialties,” said Petti-Jeanne Sheldon, a certified palliative care and hospice nurse and manager of St. Mary’s Hospice and Palliative Care Services. “Hospice care is for people with advanced disease and a life expectancy of six months or less. On the other hand, palliative care is for anyone at any stage of illness or recovery, regardless of how long they are expected to live.”

St. Mary’s palliative care team is often called on to provide expert advice on the best way to reduce or relieve pain and manage shortness of breath or other symptoms of serious illness, including constipation, nausea, and anxiety.

“Left untreated, these symptoms may reduce a patient’s quality of life and put a lot of stress on their loved ones and caregivers,” said Laura Moon, a certified nurse practitioner and a member of St. Mary’s in-home palliative care team. “We understand that pain and suffering may be more than physical, so we make the resources of our whole team available. Our social workers help patients and families live with their chronic illness with quality of life and peace of mind.”

“Another difference from hospice is that active treatment can continue for the underlying illness,” noted Jaideep Patel, M.D., the program’s medical director. “Patients may continue to see their primary care physician and specialists.”

“Palliative care doesn’t mean that the patient or the physician has given up hope for recovery,” added Sandra Stephenson, director of St. Mary’s Home Care Services. “Instead, it means they want to preserve or improve the patient’s quality of life. We can provide palliative care therapies and support for as long as the patient’s illness requires.”

Care beyond physical symptoms

Palliative care is most helpful for patients with long-term illnesses such as heart failure, lung diseases, cancer, stroke, ALS, liver disease, or kidney disease.

“Patients with these conditions often live for years after diagnosis, but many may also suffer pain, anxiety, depression and other problems that can take the joy out of living,” Sheldon said. “We want everyone to know that help is available. Our skill and passion is to make life better for our patients and their loved ones. We are here to help you navigate your journey. If you are traveling without a road map, call on us.”

Palliative care is covered by Medicare/Medicaid and many private insurance companies. Contact your insurance provider to find out if your plan covers palliative care services.

For more information about St. Mary’s In-home Palliative Care Program or to request a visit, call 706.389.2273. You can also learn more at St. Mary’s Palliative Care webpage.

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