Palliative Care

Palliative (Comfort) Care at Cayuga Medical Center

People with chronic, serious illness are living longer these days. But are they living better?

At the heart of palliative care is a passionate commitment to make you as comfortable as possible at each stage of your illness, whether you are undergoing curative treatment or not; whether you are at home or in the hospital.

Our Palliative Care Team mission is to relieve suffering and improve quality of life at any age, at any stage, and in any setting from the point of diagnosis forward — at the same time you are undergoing treatment for advanced, chronic, or multiple illnesses.

Our goal is to augment the treatment plan of your primary care doctor by focusing on symptom control and care planning. This, in turn, allows your doctor to concentrate on disease-specific therapies.

Our multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and bereavement counselors works under the direction of Dr. Suzanne Anderson, who is board certified in hospice and palliative care, family practice, and geriatrics. He also serves as medical director of Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County. Since many of our patients move back and forth between Hospicare and Cayuga Medical Center, this collaboration serves our patients and their families well.

We realize that palliative care is a relatively new subspecialty in this country; many people outside of the medical community do not fully understand what palliative care is. The following links answer some common questions about palliative care.

How is palliative care practiced at Cayuga Medical Center?

Palliative care is a continuum of care designed to meet the medical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients with chronic or progressive illnesses such as cancer, neuromuscular disease, renal failure, and advanced cardiopulmonary disease.

At Cayuga Medical Center, palliation is an integral aspect of the hospital experience. This approach helps us look at the overarching needs of patients and their families and is the type of care patients and families want and deserve. We specialize in managing symptoms, including effective relief of pain.

What is the role of the Palliative Care Team?

In the hospital setting, our clients are doctors; we act as their consultants. Palliative care specialists have expertise not only in pain and symptom control, but also in the psychosocial issues that are a part of chronic and terminal illness. We have two goals: to help doctors who are dealing with difficult, complicated cases and, in so doing, to help patients and families.

Is palliative care a medical subspecialty or a philosophy of care?

Palliative care is a medical subspecialty and a continuous sequence of care. We help doctors and their patients address serious issues before they enter the end-of-life phase. People who are chronically ill may have difficulty with pain, eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom. We can help improve your quality of life with total respect for the wishes of you and your family.

The Palliative Care Team does not bring an agenda to the family. Instead, we try to give you information about the likely outcomes of various treatments and work in collaboration with your doctors. And then we work through your goals with you. If you are a cancer patient who wants to pursue long-term therapy, our role is to support the decision and help you manage your symptoms and the issues related to family, work, and lifestyle that are all part of being ill.

What’s the difference between palliative care and hospice (end-of-life) care?

Hospice care is focused on caring for patients and keeping them comfortable at the end stage of illness. Palliative care is about symptom management at any stage of illness. Our multidisciplinary team is also very skilled at helping to ease transitions as you move from one care setting to another – from home to the hospital. In our work, we collaborate very closely with the experienced caregivers from Hospicare and Palliative Care Services.

Palliative care provides an opportunity for families to reflect: to look at patient care with people who are comfortable and experienced with looking at these issues and who can help you consider the big picture.

About Cayuga Medical Center

We are a not-for-profit, acute-care medical center bringing state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services to the residents of Tompkins, Cortland, Seneca, and Tioga counties. And a century after our founding, we remain intrinsically tied to those we serve: our corporate membership includes representatives from over 100 community organizations. At Cayuga Medical Center, we believe that hospitals are shaped by the people they serve


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