Palliative care: Addressing suffering and quality of life

The palliative care program at Emory University is working to improve quality of life and wellness by addressing the physical, psychological, ethical, spiritual and social needs of patients with serious, life-threatening or progressive chronic illnesses, and provides support to their families and caregivers.

Tammie E. Quest, MD

Often mistakenly confused with hospice care, palliative care is appropriately provided to patients in any stage of serious illness – whereas hospice care is primarily used for those approaching the end stage of life, says Tammie Quest, MD, interim director of the Emory Center for Palliative Care.

A typical palliative care “team” consists of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, mental health professionals, therapists and pharmacists, assisting patients through a wide array of illnesses, including stroke, heart and lung disease, cancer and HIV.

The palliative care teams work closely with primary physicians to control pain, relieve symptoms of illnesses – such as nausea, fatigue and depression. Teams help provide counseling in making difficult medical decisions and provide emotional and spiritual support, coordinate home care referrals and assist with identifying future care needs.

Quest says palliative care is simply good patient care. The center has a multidimensional collaboration through the unique services and expertise provided across Emory, its affiliates and community partners.

“It is the care that we all hope for and expect when we are facing serious illness,” says Quest.

Importantly, the unit of care is not just the patient, but the family and caregivers as well, and extends into the bereavement period when needed. For information on palliative care from leading national groups visit American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and, which provides information for patients and families about the specialty.

Quest is board certified in emergency medicine and hospice and palliative medicine, and is a ‘Project on Death in America’ faculty scholar. She serves as the chief of the Section of Palliative Medicine at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and is the former director of the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence in Palliative Care Oncology Program, Grady Health System. Quest is a nationally recognized expert in palliative care in the emergency setting and is the director of the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Education in Palliative and End of Life Care -Emergency Medicine Project.

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