Striving to treat not just a disease, but the entire person, a new medical facility for the seriously ill has opened in San Jose.
The first free-standing outpatient center of its kind in California, Palliative Care Center Silicon Valley aims to treat often overlooked aspects of major illness: pain, other types of discomfort, emotional distress and anxiety of families facing difficult decisions.
The opening of the nonprofit center was celebrated Friday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who said his wife, a nurse, is an advocate of palliative care. The center is a division of the nonprofit Hospice of the Valley.
"It is about making the lives people more comfortable and higher quality," said Dr. Neal Slatkin, chief medical officer for Hospice of the Valley, who will treat patients at the center.
"We have tended to neglect that aspect of medicine," he said. "We have been seduced by our technologies."
Palliative is rapidly emerging as a vital resource to those struggling with serious and life-threatening illnesses. The root word for palliation in Latin, alliare, means to cloak or shield. Palliative care protects people from the ravages of illness, while reducing the stressful, expensive and often unnecessary rushes to hospital emergency rooms.
Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be provided together with curative and life-prolonging treatments.
Most palliative care is offered at hospitals. An estimated 1,600 U.S. hospitals offer inpatient programs.
For patients not sick enough to need hospitalization, a few pioneering health-care providers, such as Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Kaiser, offer home-based care. But the new San Jose center is the state's first independent stand-alone facility, where patients visit for a physical exam, thoughtful conversation and a therapy plan.
"The home can be comfortable," said Slatkin. "But sometimes homes are noisy, messy and full of people you may not want to tell your story in front of."
Patients treated at the San Jose center may have a variety of serious illnesses, such as cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure or Alzheimer's disease. Care is available for people at any stage of a serious illness, from time of diagnosis to more advanced stages.
The center contracts with most insurance providers and Medicare, and will offer services to patients without insurance on a sliding-scale basis. As a nonprofit organization, it also relies on community fundraising for financial support.
Care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists who coordinate with the patient's other doctors, said Sally Adelus, president and CEO of Hospice of the Valley.
It offers services such as pain and symptom management, emotional and practical support, assistance in navigating the health-care system, psychological counseling to help adjust to life with a serious illness, and complementary therapies, such as Reiki and massage, art, music and aroma therapy.
To get an appointment, patients are referred by physicians for consultation. If a patient does not have a physician referral, the center will contact the doctor.
"It's an extra layer of support for patients living with any chronic, serious illness," Adelus said.
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098.
455 O'Connor Drive, Suite 300, San Jose
Online at www.pccsv.org