Palliative Care is an area of health care that focuses on patients with advanced or life-threatening illnesses and their families. Palliative Care focuses on the “total” patient, encompassing body, mind and spirit. It recognizes that uncontrolled symptoms make it hard for patients to enjoy their families and friends, and that sometimes continuing painful or minimally effective treatments are not the best choice. Palliative Medicine uses advanced methods for symptom control, and palliative care providers are highly trained in working with patients and families through the many big and small problems that arise in caring for someone who is very sick.
The Palliative Care Team
Together with your primary physician, our Team will make a comprehensive assessment and plan for managing the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Relief of suffering and control of symptoms are our most important goals. The Palliative Care Team assures that comfort will be a priority, values and decisions will be respected, spiritual and psychosocial needs will be addressed, and practical support will be available.
The Palliative Medicine Team at Lenox Hill provides specialized care to help with:
- Control of physical symptoms including nausea, shortness of breath, sleeplessness
- Expert pain management
- Coping with emotional reactions such as sadness, grief, and anger
- Advance directives or health care proxy issues
- Reaching a better understanding of your condition and your choices for medical care
- Making a plan for what to do after your hospital stay
- Family communication
Wendy S.A. Edwards, MD was previously the Chief of the Section of Palliative Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan and a member of the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics and Bioethics. A graduate of Wellesley College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, she is board certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Hospice and Palliative Medicine and is a Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York Medical College. Dr. Edwards brings more than 25 years of primary care experience to the practice of Palliative Medicine. Her specialty is pain and symptom management in the context of advanced or serious illness. Dr. Edwards’ Program is committed to improving the quality of care of patients near the end of life and providing support for their families through an interdisciplinary approach.
Annie Mei, NP returns to Lenox Hill from the Section of Palliative Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan. A graduate of New York University, specializing in Primary Care and Geriatrics, she is also board certified in Hospice and Palliative nursing. Through many years of acute care experience in Telemetry, Surgical Step-Down and the Intensive Care Units where she frequently observed life, death and near-death as they were meshed together with high tech medical interventions, Ms. Mei now focuses on providing cutting edge palliation and support to patients with advanced illness.
Bridget I. Earle MD is joining the team after finishing her fellowship in palliative medicine and hospice at North Shore University Hospital - Manhasset. A graduate of S.U.N.Y. Brooklyn, she completed her internal medicine residency at North Shore University Hospital Manhasset where she went on to serve as chief medical resident. Dr. Earle is board certified in Internal Medicine. Prior to her fellowship she worked as an internal medicine hospitalist for four years and it was during this time her interest in palliative medicine peaked and her journey began. Her current interests are pain management, education and spiritual assessments.
Meghan Hinman, MA, MT-BC, LCAT is a music therapist and New York State licensed creative arts therapist who works part-time with the Palliative Care Team at Lenox Hill Hospital. Meghan is a graduate of the creative arts therapies program at Drexel University in Philadelphia and has worked with terminally ill patients, in home-based and inpatient settings, since 2004. She uses guitar and voice, along with friendly conversation and psychotherapy techniques, to help patients and families find comfort and a safe place to express themselves in the hospital, and collaborate with the medical team to provide optimal psychosocial support. When she is not in the hospital, Meghan conducts a private psychotherapy practice, serving adults and children in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Gina Garvin, MA was previously the Director of Pastoral Care & Chaplaincy Services at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan. She joined her Palliative Care colleagues at Lenox Hill Hospital in February 2011. She received her Masters in Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care from Fordham University in the Bronx. Gina has over 15 years of experience as a counselor, supporter, facilitator and navigator meeting the psycho-social-spiritual needs of inpatients and families who are faced with serious illness.
Does Palliative Care mean that nothing more can be done for me?
Palliative Care is a comprehensive way of treating all of your needs as you move through the process of your illness. There are many things that palliative care can do for you, whether you are choosing to continue curative care or not. We can help with physical symptoms that are caused by your disease or medications, help you and your family to make important healthcare decisions, and provide emotional support.
Is Palliative Care the same thing as hospice?
Hospice is a special form of Palliative Care that is focused on the last several months of a patient’s life. Palliative Care in the hospital is not the same thing as hospice; it can be introduced early in the care of your illness, long before the end of life, and provided at the same time as curative treatments.
When is the right time to start receiving Palliative Care?
If you have a serious illness, or you are caring for someone who does, it is always worthwhile to contact a program that provides Palliative Care. Palliative care can be introduced early in the care of your illness and provided at the same time as curative treatments. Recent research has shown that Palliative Care starting early in disease treatment can improve patients’ quality of life, reduce depression and extend life.
What can I expect if I or my family member becomes a patient of the Palliative Medicine Team?
You can expect compassionate care from a small team of professionals who take the time to listen to you and your family and address your concerns. Our doctor and nurse practitioner are experts in pain management and symptom control, and make your physical comfort their top priority. Other resources include pastoral counselors and support and crisis counselors who are experienced in helping patients and families to cope with the spiritual and emotional stressors of hospitalization and illness. They can stop by to see you regularly if you so choose. From the team in general, you can expect honest communication and caring attention to the whole person.
Will my cultural and religious values be respected?
Yes. It’s important to us that your wishes are respected. We strive to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate palliative care, and emphasize cross-cultural issues in our own training and continuing education.
What can Palliative Care do to support my family?
As Palliative Care professionals, we always aim to support you and your loved ones. Your family can expect clear and honest communication from our team. We conduct family meetings to discuss medical care and plans for the future, and we provide support and counseling for you and your family, together or separately. It can be comforting to sit down with the team member(s) and have all your questions and the questions of your loved ones answered, share a prayer together with the pastoral counselor, or have an opportunity to discuss your fears and concerns with a counselor familiar with the stress of a serious illness. We’re also available by telephone if your family has questions or just needs to talk, (212) 434-4847.
What if I’m a strong person who doesn’t need to talk with anyone?
No matter how strong we have been throughout our lives, dealing with a serious illness puts severe strain on the mind, body, and spirit. Having support during this time is essential to helping you be as physically and emotionally comfortable as possible. Whether that support is present in your family and other loved ones or not, our trained professionals are here to talk if you’d like to.
Who might benefit from Palliative Care?
Patients with almost any illness can benefit from a palliative approach even if the underlying illness is curable, or is one that people live with for a long time. A focus on improving symptom management and the many burdens for patients and families can improve quality of life for everyone involved.
Palliative Care services can improve the lives of people living with diseases such as:
- congestive heart failure
- kidney disease (especially patients on dialysis)
- cystic fibrosis
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
- Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia