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Spring 2008

Palliative Care Promotes Quality of Life for Patients

Special services offered at UCLA for patients with serious, chronic or terminal illness

For people with severe chronic, debilitating and life-threatening illnesses, medical interventions, though technically effective, may fail to relieve suffering— and in some cases may become a source of suffering themselves. The desire of patients and their families to remain in control, relieve symptoms and reduce the burden on patients’ families has led to an increased emphasis on palliative care at UCLA and many other institutions.

“Palliative care is comprehensive, interdisciplinary care focusing primarily on promoting quality of life for patients and their families living with a serious chronic or terminal illness, assuring physical comfort and psychosocial support,” says Bruce Ferrell, M.D., geriatric medicine specialist and director of palliative care services at UCLA. “It is provided simultaneously with all other appropriate medical treatments.” Dr. Ferrell explains that unlike hospice care, which is limited to the terminal phase of life, palliative care provides a continuum of care that begins early in the course of chronic and incurable illness, while the goals of care remain focused on altering the course of the disease. Palliative care also encompasses hospice and end-of-life care when it is appropriate.

Palliative care services are offered at UCLA Medical Center and Santa Monica - UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. These services address the physical, psychological, spiritual and practical burdens of illness with a multidisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses, social workers, clinical psychologists and the chaplaincy. Along with helping doctors, patients and families determine treatment goals, the team provides consultation on symptom management and interfaces with community-based services concerning the long-term management of these patients when they are discharged from the hospital. The team also assists patients with advance directives on the course of their care.

“The relief from suffering and the cure of disease are both obligations of the medical profession,” says Dr. Ferrell. “People should know that UCLA’s mission is to provide patients and their families with humane, respectful care. Our goal is to assist them in retaining the best quality of life possible during a serious illness.”

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