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Pallimed: The Power of Palliative Care

Posted Feb 20 2010 6:00am

One of my very favorite medicine related blogs, Pallimed, has an extension of their blog titled "Arts and Humanities," where they post tidbits of how music, the arts, and other creative mediums have an effect on the practices of medicine, with specific interest in palliative care.

Just what is palliative care, you ask?

By definition, palliative care has goals to relieve suffering and to improve and provide the best quality of life for patients and their familiies as possible. Since finding Pallimed, through McDoc, I have taken a keen interest in the subject matter and hope to do more work and research in the specialty in the near future. Most often, palliative care, though principles are applied in nearly every medical setting, is practiced in nursing homes and in facilities that care for the elderly.

...and what is Pallimed?

Drs. Christian Sinclair, Drew Rosielle, Amy Clarkson, and Amber Wollesen are the doctors who make up the Pallimed team, and I am so grateful for their willingness to provide such an open-ended resource for those of us who are interested in the field of palliative medicine or for those who are already in the field. Dr. Brian McMichael, McDoc, has even guest posted on Pallimed. In fact, it happened just last week!

What does Pallimed mean to us here at Empowering People and Changing Lives?

As a young adult, I have often been excruciatingly timid toward an elderly adult. The fear is not that the older adult is frail, sick, or demented, but rather, the fear is associated with the fact that many elderly adults who have been diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's dementia live in nursing facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In examining the true reasons for my emotions, I have come to the conclusion that it has nothing to do with the patient in general, but rather, it has everything to do with the environment in which I have seen these patients. Nursing care for them, for the most part, in this country is less than stellar and is inadequate. It saddens me to think that there are individuals who are trained medical professionals that treat their patients in such a derogatory, disrespectful manner. These are the people who paved the way for their futures and what is now their present. Respect goes a long way in life, with specificity to the field of medicine.

Further, palliative care is an extension of the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation in the way that it jointly believes in providing the best quality of life possible. Arguably, this is the philosophy of all medicine. Palliative medicine makes end-of-life care a priority, treats it as a privilege, and comes with a promise for quality of life.

But wait...why did you post this? What was the point?

Dr. Sinclair, in November of 2009, during his Grand Rounds post, brought to our attention a video about Baxter the therapy dog. Baxter was an active servant and the San Diego Hospice until his death in October 2009. Even toward the end of his life, his owner brought him into the facility in a red wagon. She would then lay him next to a patient, or if the patient preferred that she not, Baxter would lie in his wagon next to the patient. Just as his owner says, it helps to know that there is someone else, even though he is an animal, who can empathize, and in this case, sympathize, with struggles. My patients will see that I have some of the same struggles that they might, and for me, that makes all the differences in the world. I can help people. I can show people what determination and courage look like. And for me, that's all that matters.

Sit back and enjoy Baxter's story, but be sure to have some tissues handy, too!


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