Palliative Care: Support for the Chronically Ill

Dr. Terrell VanAken

Hospitalized patients who are suffering from chronic, debilitating, difficult-to-manage or progressive health issues can receive assistance with pain management through NorthBay Bridges, a palliative care service of NorthBay Healthcare.

NorthBay Bridges uses a team approach to help seriously ill hospitalized patients optimize their quality of life. With a goal of relieving pain and other distressing symptoms that come with a life-threatening illness, the Bridges team will work with the patient’s physician and hospital team to ensure that consistent care follows the patient from the hospital to skilled nursing or home care.

Palliative care is not hospice, notes Terrell VanAken, M.D., medical director, “Although we do have patients who come under the care of hospice when their illness becomes life-ending.” Instead, palliative care has the goal of relieving or soothing the symptoms of a life-limiting disease, without aiming to cure. With education and guidance from the NorthBay Bridges team, patients and their families will gain a better understanding of their illness and its progression, and can therefore make better-informed medical decisions.

NorthBay Bridges is staffed by an interdisciplinary team, headed by Dr. VanAken, Marianne Wachalovsky, family nurse practitioner; Valerie Froman, a licensed clinical social worker; and Gretchen Shilts, chaplain. Under the direction of Dr. VanAken, and Administrative Director Patty Kramer, the Bridges team collaborates with the patient’s physician to not just address physical pain, but also any social, cultural and spiritual needs seriously ill patients and their families may have. The goal is to help these patients reduce their pain so they may have better symptom management and, ultimately, improved quality of life.

Any hospitalized patient diagnosed with a serious illness may request a referral to the program through their hospital physician. For more information about NorthBay Bridges, call (707) 646-4216.

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