Palliative Care

Holistic medicine is taking hold in Oklahoma hospitals.

Palliative care programs aim to bring doctors, nurses, clergy and others together to relieve the pain and distress of serious illness. The goal is to lessen suffering and treat symptoms rather than the underlying health problems.

Jeff Raymond, Staff Writer Published: June 29, 2008
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Holistic medicine is taking hold in Oklahoma hospitals.

Palliative care programs aim to bring doctors, nurses, clergy and others together to relieve the pain and distress of serious illness. The goal is to lessen suffering and treat symptoms rather than the underlying health problems.

Palliative care isn’t just for cancer patients, and illnesses don’t have to be life-threatening to qualify.

Pat Goode saw the value of palliative care when her father landed in intensive care with internal bleeding after having his knee replaced.

He was close to death several times and was unconscious for much of his 7½-week hospitalization.

Nurses made sure to include Goode in discussions about her father's health and how to care for him. They helped her understand the process of hospitalization and comforted her as she sat by his bed.

“They have an incredible, positive outlook on life — and hope. We were very blessed to be able to be involved in that program,” Goode said.

Dr. Jeff Alderman, director of palliative care for St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, touted its benefits.

“This is a win-win for hospitals, a win-win for patients, a win-win for families,” he said.

Palliative care programs are spreading from the metro areas to smaller communities such as Durant, Madill and Pauls Valley.

Nationally, the number of hospitals offering palliative care has increased 96 percent in the last eight years to more than 1,200, according to the New York-based Center to Advance Palliative Care.

“It's catching on as something that must be done for American hospitals,” said Alderman, who estimated his program treated 300 to 400 patients in 2006.

With the number of elderly Americans expected to double in coming decades, some in health care see palliative care as vital to their well-being.