Helping Patients Optimize Quality of Life
Hospitalized patients with complicated, chronic, debilitating or difficult-to-manage health issues needn’t fear they will be discharged to home or a skilled nursing facility without a safety net. They simply ask their attending physician, hospitalist or primary care doctor to be referred to
NorthBay Bridges—a Supportive Care Service of NorthBay Healthcare.
NorthBay Bridges began three years ago as a hospital service to help seriously ill patients manage their symptoms and optimize their quality of life. Palliative care programs have expanded rapidly in recent years in response to the growing number of people living with chronic, debilitating and life-limiting illnesses.
Palliative care is not hospice, notes Terrell Van Aken, M.D., medical director, “although appropriate patients are sometimes referred to hospice.” NorthBay Bridges is an interdisciplinary program focused on helping patients and their families to make decisions that will optimize their quality of life, despite a debilitating illness. “Our biggest role is to improve and facilitate communication between the patient, family, doctors and nurses, and to serve as a consultant on comfort care and quality of life issues.”
NorthBay Bridges is staffed by an interdisciplinary team, headed by Dr. Van Aken, as well as Valerie Froman, a licensed clinical social worker and Gretchen Shilts, a chaplain. Under the direction of Dr. Van Aken and Administrative Director Patty Kramer, the NorthBay Bridges team works with the patient’s physician to provide treatment that reaches beyond physical pain and symptom relief to address emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs of seriously ill patients and their families. “Instead of concentrating on a cure for a life-limiting illness, we provide control of overall symptoms,” says Dr. Van Aken. “We can also assist with the emotional support necessary to promote the overall quality of life for the patient and the family.”
The medical director and the team collaborate with the hospital team, which could include other physicians, nurses, social workers and other professional services as needed.
Along with providing symptom relief, the NorthBay Bridges team is trained to help patients and their families understand their choices and give patients tools to communicate those choices to their families. The team also anticipates the course the illness is likely to take and helps educate families and helps them cope with the changes and symptoms as they occur.
Any hospitalized patient diagnosed with a serious illness may request a referral to this program through their hospital physician. For more information about NorthBay Bridges, call 646-4216.