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Impact Stories

A Focus on Quality of Life as St. Charles Palliative Care Expands

One of the most difficult decisions a family must make when facing advanced disease is when to shift the mindset from wanting the most aggressive treatment possible for a loved one to making the quality of your loved one's life the priority. One of the most successful approaches to managing this trying time is palliative care. Focusing simultaneously on physical relief of pain, patients' emotional and spiritual health and caregiver and family support can provide the best outcomes for those afflicted by advanced and life-threatening disease.

Dr. Laura Mavity with an AIM patient.

Focus on Quality of Life

But providing this sort of holistic patient care and case management requires something of a dream team of caregivers. Palliative care physician Dr. Laura Mavity has seen the realization of that dream at St. Charles with the help of a grant of $240,000 from The Regence Foundation, applied for in conjunction with St. Charles Foundation. The funding has enabled her to expand the palliative care program, renamed Advanced Illness Management (AIM), with a dedicated social worker and program coordinator, a program assistant and additional data analysis support.

St. Charles Foundation supported this important program with a $5,000 grant and helped secure $240,000 in grants from The Regence Foundation.

"This expansion of our team and support staff has significantly improved our ability to develop our AIM program to meet the demands of increased consultation volume in the hospital and to meet the needs of our community and health system," said Dr. Mavity.

In 2012, AIM demonstrated significant healthcare cost reductions directly attributed to the consultations, totaling $3,631,780—an average of $4,164 per patient.

The Comfort Care Program within the St. Charles system has also joined AIM. St. Charles Foundation supported this transition with a $5,000 grant to purchase a Comfort Care Cart for improved family comfort and support.

Dr. Mavity tells the story of a patient with a life-ending illness who was expected to die within a few days. Distraught and exhausted both physically and emotionally, the family was feeling very alone and abandoned after being transferred to comfort care from the ICU. The health care and AIM team came in the next morning with the Comfort Care Cart stocked with items intended to bring some peace during this very difficult time.

"The family found the journals and spiritual readings extremely comforting," said Dr. Mavity. "The soft pillowcase in the patient's favorite color along with the prayer shawl from the spiritual care provider brought color and warmth to the room. The Comfort Care Cart turned a room that had been filled with frustration and anger into a warm, sacred space for this patient's passing."

While the material objects on the cart may seem small in comparison with the magnitude of what the family was going through, they expressed enormous gratitude for how the support from the AIM team along with these items from the Comfort Care Cart brought a real shift in processing their loved one's death.

Since the Regence grant award, AIM has become a dedicated Center of Care within the St. Charles Health System with added funding for an administrative director, Katie Hartley, and additional full-time physician, Dr. Richard Maunder, to increase program capacity and assist with program development and expansion.

To donate a financial gift to this program, please contact St. Charles Foundation at 541-706-6996 or giving@stcharlesfoundation.org.