Palliative Care: Comfort and Quality of Life When Patients Need it Most

March 26, 2021

Hospitals take care of patients who are very ill and need care around the clock. Rehabilitation centers help recovering patients continue healing and regain independence. But what about people with serious illnesses who don’t fit either category? People with illnesses like advanced cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, or lung disease, who face multiple symptoms that are difficult to manage?

That’s where palliative care comes in. Now available from Martin’s Point, palliative care supports people who need specialized medical care to help them manage pain, stress, and symptoms — so they can live their best lives.

Managing symptoms, meeting goals

Often confused with hospice, palliative care is available at any point during an illness, regardless of age or diagnosis. Hospice, on the other hand, is for patients nearing the end of life. Palliative care patients continue to work with the primary care doctors and specialists currently treating them, and receive additional care and services that meet their day-to-day needs.

“We provide an extra layer of care, focusing on comfort —  physical, emotional, and spiritual — to help patients meet their goals,” says Teresa Letellier, M.D., palliative care specialist at our Biddeford Health Care Center. Because each person’s experience and goals are different, palliative care is highly tailored to meet individual needs.

Palliative care in action

Let’s consider Iris, a fictional person with a story that reflects many of our patients’ concerns. A widowed senior living with COPD and diabetes, Iris wants to live at home, visit with her three grandchildren, tend her tomato plants, and watch songbirds come and go. But just getting out the door is a struggle for her.

This is where palliative care shines. “Our specialists get to know you, your goals, and the degree of medical intervention you want. Then we help make it happen,” explains Letellier.

Iris, for instance, wanted to enjoy her family and the simple pleasure of getting outside, but she didn’t want to end up on a ventilator in intensive care. In this case, the team might provide oxygen, therapeutic exercises to improve breathing and decrease anxiety, and medication for pain relief and shortness of breath, as well as assistance with an advance directive.

Steps like these help patients live better now­ — and also help them prepare for possibilities that could develop down the road. “With palliative care, patients often find they have a new lease on life,” says Letellier. “And that’s what it’s all about.”


How to set up palliative care

Palliative care is available to any Martin’s Point patient living in Maine, either in person at our Biddeford Health Care Center and through telehealth appointments. Especially helpful during COVID-19, telehealth is also a great solution when patients want to involve extend family members who might be far away or have challenging schedules. If internet access is an issue, our team can even consult with patients by phone.

If you or someone you know could benefit from palliative care, learn more on our website and talk to your doctor about a referral. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover these services.