A Tulsa hospital is working to highlight the options available to terminally ill patients.
Doctors say there is a big benefit to having the complicated conversation of when to stop treatment as early as possible.
“Nana was a little, feisty, firecracker of a woman,” Jessica Ulrich said of her grandmother. “She was a ballet dancer in her youth … and was very devoted to her family.”
Ulrich’s grandmother, Nancy Boren, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year around Christmas. Ulrich says they tried many aggressive treatments, then realized it was too much.
“It became clear to us that the humane thing to do was to just focus on her symptom control and giving her the best final days possible,” she said.
She says St. John’s Palliative Care team helped switch her family’s focus from curing her grandmother to making her final days as memorable as possible.
“Everyone in our family got a lot of quality one-on-one time with her to soak her up and tell her what we needed to say,” recalled Ulrich. “Then she kind of slipped away.”
Palliative care uses a holistic approach to treat patients with a chronic or terminal illness. They look at different aspects, like nutrition, spirituality, and quality of life, in order to make sure patients and families are living their final days to the fullest.
“Many people confuse us with hospice, but hospice is really that last six months of life,” said Dr. John Hendrix. “Palliative care can really get involved years before hospice is even considered.”
According to the Centers to Advance Palliative Care, Oklahoma does pretty poorly when it comes to treatment for terminal patients because there aren’t a lot of providers, but St. John has an entire team of doctors working together to make sure patients are taken care of.
“Just like any doctor, we can develop that relation and it’s sad,” said Dr. Hendrix, “but at the end of the day, we all try to re-frame what we are doing here is to really take care of these people at a difficult time.”