Palliative Care Information Guide

Topics in This Section

Talking to Your Children About Cancer

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can affect the whole family.
Read more »

What is palliative care?

  • Palliative care provides patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness whatever the prognosis.

What is the goal of palliative care?

  • The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. 
  • Palliative care improves quality of life for patients and families facing life-threatening illnesses by helping relieve symptoms of the disease.

Which patients are most likely to receive palliative care?

  • Hospitalized patients with serious life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses, no matter the stage of their illness:
  • All forms of advanced cancer
  • Advanced heart, lung, liver, or kidney disease, severe neurological illnesses (dementia, stroke, brain injury)
  • Any illness, condition, or disease that has a negative impact on quality of life

Can a patient have curative treatment together with palliative care?

  • Yes.  Treatment choices are up to the patient/family.  The patient can get palliative care at the same time as a curative treatment.

How do you obtain palliative care services?

  • Patients & their families can ask their healthcare provider for a referral to the palliative care team or a healthcare provider may recommend a palliative care referral.  The inpatient consult should be a written order that is recorded in Sorian like all other consults.  Outpatient consults can be called to scheduling or 215-728-3090. 
  • A member of the Palliative Care Team will visit the inpatient &/or family
  • The service is available to all patients.
  • A physician or NP is available by phone or pager 24/7.

Who is on the palliative care team?

  • Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Social Workers, Chaplains
  • The primary team consists of:   Dr. Michael Levy; Dr. Marcin Chwistek; Kate Murphy CRNP; Pam Kedziera RN, MSN –Clinical Director; Social Worker Sheila Amrhein LCSW; nurses: Bonnie Carolan-McNulty MS, RN; Bill Duffy BSN, RN; and Nicole Ewerth BSN, CHPN
  • Associate team members include:  chaplains, Alex Hud and Barbara Klimowitz, who provide spiritual care and all the FCCC social worker, who have relationships with referred patients.

What does the palliative care team do?
The Palliative Care Team are work along with the primary oncologist and healthcare team, providing services which include:

  • Symptom Management including - Assessing & treating: pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, depression, drowsiness, appetite, & anxiety;
  • Maintaining comfort and quality of life;
  • Providing spiritual & psychosocial support for the patient & family;
  • Coordinating patient/family and medical team meetings to discuss treatment options;
  • Providing close communication to help patients & their families make tough decisions
  • Identifying support services for after hospital discharge; and
  • Helping with advance care planning, so patients/families can plan for end of life care before it is needed.

What does a palliative physician do that’s different from what the patients’ other physicians do?

  • Other physicians focus on treating the patient’s cancer or the patient’s general health conditions.

  • Palliative physicians concentrate on preventing and alleviating suffering and improving the patient’s quality of life, and helping patients and families cope with the stress and burden of the illness.

If a patient agrees to palliative care, does that mean the patient is “giving up?”

  • Not at all. The goal of palliative care is to make the patient comfortable and to help him/her achieve the best possible quality of life.

  • The patient can have palliative care while undergoing treatments that may cure or reverse the effects of his/her illness.
  • In fact, palliative care can help patients cope with aggressive treatments by getting pain and other symptoms under control to help them fight their disease.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

  • Palliative care is for anyone with a serious illness. You can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, and you can have it along with curative treatment. It is not dependent on prognosis.

  • Hospice is a specific type of palliative care that focuses only on the final stage of life: terminally ill patients who may have only have six months or less to live.  People who receive hospice care are no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease.
  • Hospice care is always palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice care.

How do you pay for palliative care?

  • Palliative care is treated in the same way as any medical services (e.g. cardiology).  Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care.