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Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning Program

Enhancing the quality of life for our patients who are 
being treated for a serious illness

When a patient is facing a serious illness, quality of life often suffers.  Pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, stress and other symptoms can make it difficult to get through each day – let alone find the strength to endure treatment.  The Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning program at Sansum Clinic helps patients find relief.

What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care refers to the comprehensive management of the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of seriously ill patients.  Palliative care is appropriate at any point during an illness and can be provided at the same time as treatment that is meant to cure.

Goals of Palliative Care
The goal of palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life through the relief of suffering and control of symptoms.  Palliative care helps patients gain the strength to carry on with daily life, improves their ability to tolerate medical treatments, helps them better understand their choices for care, and provides support for their families and caregivers.

Studies have shown that patients who receive early, palliative care often utilize fewer healthcare services and indicate greater satisfaction with their care, compared to patients who receive no palliative care. 

Patients Who May Benefit from Palliative Care
A key benefit of palliative care is that it customizes treatment to meet the needs of each patient.  Palliative care may be provided at any time during a person’s illness, even from the time of diagnosis.  And it may be given at the same time as curative treatment.

Patients considered for palliative care include:

  • Seriously ill patients whose distressing symptoms are difficult to manage
  • Patients and families who are struggling with decision-making about complex medical issues
  • Patient and families whose goals of care appear to be in conflict
  • Patients in need of coordination of care through the course of a complex illness

Sansum Clinic and Ridley-Tree Cancer Center care for a large number of the oncology, pulmonary, cardiology, rheumatology and neurology patients in the community, with diagnoses including neurological conditions such as ALS and dementia, and patients with cardiac, respiratory, kidney, liver or other organ dysfunction or failure such as congestive heart failure, COPD or end-stage renal disease.    

The Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care
Although the philosophies of palliative care and hospice care are identical, there are differences.  Hospice provides palliative care.  However, hospice is focused on terminally ill patients – those who no longer seek a cure for their illness and who are expected to live for about six months or less.  Palliative care is designed to relieve suffering and improve quality of life, helping patients carry on with daily living. It is often provided while treatment is being delivered, and is available at any time during a patient’s illness.

Palliative Care Services
The Palliative Care Team will thoroughly address the patients’ pain and comfort care issues. They will coordinate with primary care and other specialists and care providers who are part of the patient’s medical team, and will ensure patients have appropriate/early access to hospice and other critical patient-oriented programs as their disease progresses.

Palliative Care services include:

  • Assessment and review of patient’s plan of care, including identifying patient’s needs
  • Collaboration with the clinician’s treatment of patient by providing patient-family case management, help navigating the healthcare system, care coordination and effective management of complex and changing symptoms
  • Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices, as well as preparing patient and family for the end-of-life process
  • Providing resources and referrals for bereavement services
  • Other services as needed, such as coordinating discharge services with the appropriate hospice or home care program, and then ensuring the full support of everyone during the transition

Evidence from multiple large clinical trials shows early palliative care improves the quality of life, reduces depression and improves satisfaction with care. For hospitalized patients, palliative care reduces the length of stay, the number and duration of ICU stays, readmission rates and emergency room use. The program increases use and length of stay in hospice. For patients near the end of life, palliative care reduces the use of invasive and aggressive treatments and increases enrollment and length of stay in hospice, while actually improving survival.  

Advance Care Planning Services
Advance Care Planning is an integral part of the program with a goal of aligning medical care with the individual patient’s preferences – “that people get the care they need and no less, and the care they want and no more”.  The Palliative Care Team will engage patients in a meaningful discussion about healthcare goals and preferences, including end of life goals.

Advance Care Planning services include support in:

  • Exploring the patient’s values, goals, beliefs and healthcare preferences
  • Understanding the patient’s current health status and expected course of illness
  • Selecting a qualified healthcare agent to act on the patient’s behalf
  • Documenting the name of the patient’s healthcare agent and preferences in a My Care Advance Directive
  • Completing a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) if appropriate
  • Sharing decisions with loved ones and healthcare providers
  • Recording the Advance Care Plan in the patient’s electronic health record

Community Collaboration

The palliative care team collaborates with Cottage Health medical professionals and program directors, as well as community providers of acupuncture and myofascial release techniques.  They also have strong working relationships with all providers of palliative and hospice care in the community, including Hospice of Santa Barbara, VNA Health and Serenity House, and the Alliance for Living and Dying Well. 

About the Team

Under the leadership of Dr. Deborah S. Meyers, the palliative team includes a palliative care nurse, social worker certified in Advance Care Planning, clinical care coordinator, and medical assistant, all of whom are  passionate about caring for patients who are suffering with serious, life limiting illness.  Dr. Meyers has a history of leadership of and experience with palliative and hospice care programs. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and in Hospice and Palliative Care. She was the founder of the Palliative Care Program at The Everett Clinic in Everett, WA. She has a BA, BS and Medicine Doctorate from the University of Washington and her General Medicine Residency was at Virginia Mason Medical Center.  

Special Thanks

The Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning Program is generously funded through philanthropic support from major donors: J.S. Bower Foundation, William Williams, Natalie Orfalea Foundation and Lou Buglioli, Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, Benjamin Wayne and Valerie Mizuhara, Warren and Mary Lynn Staley and Hollye and Jeff Jacobs.   

To schedule an appointment with the Palliative Care Department please call 805-879-0675.  


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