About Palliative Care
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care designed to improve the quality of life for people in different stages of serious illness (cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, among others). From active treatment to recovery to comfort care, the goal of palliative care is to provide relief from physical symptoms and pain, and offer psychological and spiritual support for the fear, anxiety and depression that often accompany a serious illness.
Annually, Summa Health provides palliative care consulting to nearly 4,000 patients across all sites of care. Our team works closely with the patient’s family and caregivers, who face tremendous challenges caring for loved ones while trying to balance work and everyday life.
This approach to palliative care allows us to effectively address the emotional, social and spiritual issues many patients and families face, and to provide them with the highest quality of life possible before, during and after treatment.
When is Palliative Care Appropriate?
Palliative care is appropriate for people of all ages, and at any stage in an illness, whether the illness is curable, chronic or life-threatening. It can be offered in an inpatient setting, outpatient setting, or in a person’s home or nursing home. The care is individualized for each patient’s unique situation and needs.
The Summa Health Palliative Care team includes:
- physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants
- social workers
- spiritual care professionals
While the patient receives all medically prescribed treatments, our team focuses on coordinating a person’s care and easing the suffering associated with symptoms like pain, nausea, fatigue, breathlessness, depression and anxiety.
We also work closely with caregivers, answering their questions, helping identify community support resources and providing psychosocial support.
How is Palliative Care Different from Hospice Care?
Sometimes people confuse the terms palliative care and hospice care because they both provide comfort. The main difference between the two is that palliative care can begin at any time – from diagnosis through treatment and beyond, especially for those with chronic conditions. Hospice care doesn’t begin until after treatment of the disease has stopped and the patient is no longer seeking curative therapies. It is usually offered when a person is estimated to live less than six months.
Under hospice care, patients have their symptoms managed with the support of an interdisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, nurses, aides, chaplains, psychologists and volunteers. Patients who enroll in hospice have made the decision to maximize their quality of life and acknowledge that their life is limited. Hospice teams work with patients and families to provide dignity at the end of life. Care is provided for patients in whatever location they call home. Hospice teams visit patients in their own homes, in nursing homes, and in acute hospice units when symptoms determine this is necessary.
Circle of Life Award®
Summa Health Palliative and Hospice Care received the Circle of Life Award® Citation of Honor for its innovation in improving the care of patients near the end of life or with life-threatening conditions. As one of a few organizations honored by the Circle of Life Award Program, Summa was recognized for its research, achievements in medical education and work with long-term care facilities.
About the Circle of Life Award
The American Hospital Association Circle of Life Award honors organizations or groups that provide palliative and end-of-life care programs.
- Serve individuals with serious and life-limiting illness, their families, and their communities.
- Demonstrate effective, patient/family-centered, timely, safe, efficient and equitable care to patients with serious and life-limiting illness.
- Use innovative approaches to meeting critical needs and serve as sustainable, replicable models.
- Pursue quality improvement consistent with the National Consensus Project (NCP) Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, NHPCO Standards of Practice for Hospice Programs or other widely-accepted standards
- Address physical, psychosocial, spiritual, and cultural needs throughout the disease trajectory
Advanced Certification in Palliative Care
In 2013, Summa Health’s Akron and St. Thomas Campuses received Advanced Certification in Palliative Care from The Joint Commission, the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. Launched in September 2011, The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification Program for Palliative Care recognizes hospital inpatient programs that demonstrate exceptional patient and family-centered care, optimize the quality of life for patients with serious illness and continually evaluate and improve the program. A small number of palliative care programs in the country have achieved this level of recognition. Summa Health most recently recertified on the Akron Campus in 2022, demonstrating sustained excellence over time.
Certification from The Joint Commission demonstrates to our patients, their families, caretakers and the community that our palliative care program focuses on patient and family engagement and features an inpatient program led by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in palliative care. Our program supports open communication and coordination of care among all care settings and providers.
To be certified we must show that our program provides:
- A full range of palliative care services around the clock using standardized care and evidence-based practices
- An interdisciplinary team to meet patients’ medical, social, emotional and spiritual needs
- A set of standardized performance measures to help improve performance
- Data collection of performance for submission to The Joint Commission on a quarterly basis
Acute Palliative Care Unit
The services provided within Summa Health's Acute Palliative Care Unit located on the Akron Campus embrace a variety of medical and therapeutic disciplines that work together to create an individualized, patient-focused care plan.
Our state-of-the-art unit offers the same equipment found in other hospital acute care settings. However, at Summa Health, patients experience a holistic approach to palliative care, in a soothing, comforting environment suited to caring for their most important needs.
The unit features:
- Private patient rooms
- Family rooms
- Small communal kitchen for families
- Community rooms for private meetings with families and support groups
Outpatient Palliative Care
We also offer outpatient palliative care services to help with pain control, non-pain symptom management and goals of care discussions. Services can be provided in your home or extended care facility as well as onsite in providers’ offices or at the same time as your treatments at Summa Health’s cancer centers. We also can help you navigate treatment decisions or advance directives based on your goals and needs. Our 24/7 phone support is designed to help you avoid unnecessary emergency room visits when possible.
You may need additional help at home if:
- There has been a change in your condition
- You are frequently hospitalized or make frequent trips to the emergency room
- You have debilitating symptoms that are not improving.
If you need additional help, reach out to our palliative care team. We can help connect you with community resources that offer in-home nursing/aide support, meal delivery and other housekeeping needs.
For more information about our palliative care consulting services, call 330.375.3039 or request an appointment with one of our specialists.
Summa Health System – Akron Campus
Jean & Milton Cooper Pavilion
161 North Forge St
Akron, OH 44304
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Patient Stories and Resources
Palliative Care 101
Palliative Care is specialized treatment tailored to those who are suffering from chronic or life limiting illnesses. Learn more about our holistic care approach for treating all aspects of suffering.
The Importance of Advance Directives in End-of-Life Care [Podcast]
In this episode, Dr. Kyle Yoder and palliative care social worker Ellen Saal-Patterson lead a comprehensive discussion on preparing for end-of-life care.