What is Palliative Care? | MedStar Health

What is Palliative Care?

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Dr Alvin Reaves visits a patient at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.
A Comprehensive, Caring Approach to Dealing with a Life-Limiting Illness

Palliative Care is customized, supportive care that takes into account all aspects of who the patient is and what works best for them. It helps people understand their choices about their care and it’s why our new Director of Palliative Care, Dr. Alvin Reaves, III, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, refers to think of what he does as Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care.

“When I began my career as a physician, I began to take care of people with chronic diseases, managing symptoms we could not cure,” said Dr. Reaves. “Uncontrolled symptoms cause fear and anxiety and I wanted to address how to care for people at this time in their lives, providing customized care that recognizes the differing needs of each patient and works in partnership with the medical team, the patient, and the family.”

At MedStar Southern Maryland, the Palliative Care Team includes Dr. Reaves, social worker Zoe Plaugher, and Nurse Practitioner Sherri Hayes. Together, they are responsible for managing the care a patient receives to ensure their case is treated in a unique way determined by each individual patient.

“This means doing different things for different people, said Plaugher. “We consult with the medical team, we make sure the patient and their family understands what is going on and we listen to what they want. We ask what kind of person they were and how we can preserve their dignity.”

The team incorporates multiple disciplines, says Plaugher, as they help review the medical condition of the patient, set treatment goals, provide the family with support and resolve conflicts. The team also works with both in-patient consultants and outside agencies, such as hospice, to coordinate the best care for each patient.

“We treat the whole person, physically, emotionally and spiritually, as well as the family,” said Dr. Reaves. “We find out their understanding of what is going on and what is important to them.”

The MedStar system believes putting a palliative care team in place is very important for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families, so they have assembled teams at each MedStar hospital.

Please visit MedStarSouthernMaryland.org/Palliative for more information about Palliative Care at MSMHC.