“Palliative care is patient- and family-centered care that is very holistic. Ideally, the holistic approach should influence our health care facility design,” says Martha L. Twaddle, M.D., senior vice president of medical excellence and innovation for JourneyCare in Barrington, Ill.

Patient and family first

The traditional biomedical model of care begins with a diagnosis, moves on to a treatment plan and only then considers the individual wants and needs of the patient, says Twaddle. Palliative care upends this model by focusing on the patient and family first.

“It looks at who the person is, what’s most important to them, how they make their health care decisions,” she says. “And then in the context of that: What is their illness, what do they know about it, how much do they want to know about it, and what do they want as far as their care?” Palliative care helps people to manage the symptoms of significant, life-altering conditions, along with the side effects of treatment and any related psychological, social or spiritual issues. Hospice is palliative care for people near the end of life. Its aim is the comfort of the patient rather than a cure.

Twaddle says there are certain things that should receive careful attention in the design of facilities for people with serious illness or near death. Healing spaces that are aesthetically designed to help patients and family members cope with the situation are “extremely important,” she says, as are privacy and places to talk with members of the care team. “It can’t be, God forbid, in the hallway,” she says.

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