Palliative Care Proves Beneficial for Shorewood Family Dealing with Serious Illness
A year ago October, Don Budd of Shorewood was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Without warning, he and his wife Tania were faced with serious decisions about his medical care and how his illness would impact their family. His life quickly became a blur of doctor visits for cancer treatment, surgery and chemotherapy.
Don and Tania Budd of Shorewood say palliative care services have been a game-changer since Don was diagnosed with a serious illness a year ago. So much so, that they’re off on another adventure in their camper.
“My family was under so much stress,” Don, 46, explains. “We were struggling to come to terms with my diagnosis. I was very ill from chemotherapy, and my wife was taking on a lot by being a caretaker, a parent to our kids and working her job as a nurse. We just didn’t know where to turn for help.”
Don’s wife of 23 years, Tania, 45, is a nurse at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. Even with her expansive healthcare knowledge, they struggled to find support for their family and proper pain management for Don. Tania finally discussed her concerns with Silver Cross Palliative Care Advanced Practice Nurse Fran Flynn, APRN, BC-CNS, who oversees the inpatient palliative care team at Silver Cross Hospital. Since Don wasn’t receiving inpatient care, Flynn guided her to an community-based palliative care program available through Joliet Area Community Hospice.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. Services are provided by highly trained doctors, nurses and social workers with the goal of improving the quality of life for the patient and their family.
Palliative care is appropriate at any age and stage of a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. It addresses pain management, depression, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and other common symptoms of chronic or serious illness. Palliative care team members communicate regularly with the patient’s doctors and other healthcare providers to promote coordination and continuity of care.
“Palliative care has been so helpful to my family and has given us hope. Don is finally getting the home nursing and pain management care needed,” Tania said. “The social worker assigned to our case has guided us to places that can give us the emotional support our family needs. We have a son and daughter, ages 21 and 24 years old, and we are concerned with how they are handling their father’s illness – the palliative care team has gone above and beyond to find them the support they need.”
Every year, nearly 1.6 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospice and palliative care providers, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Common diagnoses include cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, kidney disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and more. Best of all, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that patients with a serious illness, who received palliative care early after diagnosis, lived longer than those who did not.
Palliative care benefits people who may be experiencing declines in their health, are unable to manage the daily tasks of living alone, experience intense pain on a day-to-day basis, have frequent hospital admissions or have had a prolonged length of stay in the hospital without any sign of improvement.
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Silver Cross Hospital would like to raise awareness to the importance of these services and for those people coping with life-limiting illnesses. It is helpful to note that palliative care is different than hospice care. While both palliative care and hospice care provide comfort, palliative care can begin at diagnosis of a serious illness and continue through active treatment. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease has stopped.
Palliative Care Offers Choices to Those with Serious Illness
Don said palliative care has given him the confidence to be an advocate for his own healthcare and make his own choices. An arborist by trade, Don owns a tree service company and was able to work throughout his busy season this year – doing something he loves.
“If it weren’t for the nursing and pain management services I received through palliative care, I wouldn’t have been able to do the job I love. The amazing support I have received from my healthcare team has made me realize I don’t have an expiration date. I accept that the cancer will end my life at some point. I just want to be as comfortable as I can be, doing the things I love - palliative care is giving me that chance,” said Don.
Don and Tania spent this past summer taking trips in their camper to state parks in the Midwest. In fact, he’s feeling so good he and Tania are planning a long drive to the Florida Keys.
“There’s one more thing I would like to do if it’s possible – renew my wedding vows with my wife in Las Vegas,” said Budd.
For more information, visit silvercross.org or for outpatient palliative care, visit joliethospice.org