Posts tagged ‘supportive care’


National Healthcare Decisions Day: Start with 5 simple questions

April 12, 2015 | by
advance healthcare directive

Don’t make your health care team or loved ones guess what you want should you be unable to make a decision. On National Healthcare Decision Day, tell them — by making an advance health care directive.

Health care decisions are tough. They’re even tougher when you – or loved ones – have to make them without a plan or a conversation.

National Healthcare Decisions Day, on April 16,  is a nationwide initiative to demystify the health care decision-making process and encourage families to start talking. Ultimately, that talking should lead to an advance directive or agreement that will guide future plans and health care decisions should you be unable to make your wishes known.

It’s no coincidence that the annual observance lands the day after tax returns are due – it was inspired by Ben Franklin’s quote: “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.” National Healthcare Decisions Day gives you a reason to broach the conversation without the angst of why.

So if you haven’t outlined your wishes, now’s the time to start thinking, start a conversation and start mapping out a plan. » Continue Reading


Nurse practitioner offers practical advice for end-of-life care

April 6, 2015 | by

“The dying, as a group, have been horribly underserved.” So says Bonnie Freeman, R.N., D.N.P., A.N.P.-B.C., A.C.H.P.N., a nurse practitioner in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope.

Bonnie Freeman

End-of-life care: City of Hope’s Bonnie Freeman developed the CARES tool to support caregivers of dying patients.

After nearly 25 years, primarily in critical care nursing, Freeman saw that the needs of the dying were often not being met, so she developed an innovative tool – in the form of an easy-to-carry booklet – to offer nurses clear and practical information to help provide a compassionate, loving experience for patients nearing the end of life.

The CARES (short for Comfort, Airway, Restlessness, Emotional support and Self-care) tool is small enough to fold up and put in your pocket and holds simple, straight-forward steps to address the symptoms of a dying patient. It’s a “Here’s what you’ll see; here’s what you can do” approach to pain management, ethics, feeding, breathing, family, music, room temperature and even lighting.

Death offers no second chances to get it right, not for the patient, the family or the caregiver. It’s a difficult experience for everyone, but Freeman has witnessed how every decision in end-of-life care has the power to make things better or make things worse.

“I once watched a mother try to touch her dying son through the gown and gloves they made her wear,” she said. But a call to the Infectious Diseases Department for new orders meant a mother’s last caresses didn’t include latex after all. It’s that individual approach that makes all the difference.

» Continue Reading


4 benefits of receiving cancer support from other couples

April 4, 2015 | by

“Are we the only ones who feel this way?”

Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., a social worker in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope, often hears this question from couples trying to cope with a breast cancer diagnosis and still keep their relationship strong. The question isn’t surprising. Because cancer increases stress and impacts many aspects of life, it doesn’t affect only the person diagnosed. Rather, Bitz said, it affects their partner as well, sometimes leaving both feeling isolated.

cancer support group for couples

Support groups can help individuals, but they can also help couples, especially couples facing cancer.

No one understands that experience better than other cancer patients and their partners.

Knowing this, Bitz has started a support group for couples facing a breast cancer diagnosis, to help them better face the emotional and practical demands of a diagnosis and treatment regimen. Such a support group should be a role model for other institutions and other cancer programs.

“When facing the stressors of a cancer diagnosis, even the healthiest of couples can have a difficult time knowing what to say, what kind of comfort to provide and where to find help,” Bitz said. » Continue Reading


Cancer side effects: 4 tips for coping with appearance changes

March 26, 2015 | by
beauty bus event

Cancer side effects can take a toll on self-confidence. Here, patient Veronica Bedjakian receives a makeover during a recent Beauty Bus event at City of Hope’s Positive Image Center.

The physical side effects of cancer can damage anyone’s self-confidence, but especially that of women who, rightly or wrongly, are more likely to find their appearance (or their own perception of their appearance) directly connected to their ability to face the world with something resembling aplomb.

Further, although many people may think they’re prepared for such side effects, the reality is often different.

City of Hope understands this.

  • The Positive Image CenterSM routinely sponsors complimentary events and beauty classes for patients going through treatment.
  • It hosts monthly Look Good . . . Feel Better sessions, part of a free, national program sponsored by the American Cancer Society for women currently undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. The classes are taught by specially trained, licensed cosmetologists on skin care techniques, alternatives for hair loss and much more.
  • And twice a year, City of Hope welcomes the Beauty Bus, a mobile self-confidence boost that “delivers dignity, hope and respite to chronically ill men, women and children and their caregivers through beauty and grooming services and pampering products.”

This healing-on-wheels program brings complimentary salon services to patients directly, many of whom have compromised immune systems that prevent them from going to salons.

Amy Donner, L.C.S.W., in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope, offers the following tips for anyone, especially women, struggling with the physical changes of cancer. » Continue Reading


True supportive care treats patients as individuals, not a concept

February 26, 2015 | by

Cancer patients should get more than medical treatment. They should get comprehensive, evidence-based care that addresses their full range of needs. That kind of patient-focused care is City of Hope’s specialty.

Supportive care

City of Hope was a pioneer in supportive care. Now it’s taking that care to new levels.

Under the guidance of Dawn Gross, M.D., Ph.D., the new Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine and chair of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine, City of Hope is taking such care to new levels, starting with an interdisciplinary team model that focuses on patients as the complex individuals they are.

Following this approach, a team of practitioners that includes social workers, chaplains, psychologists, palliative care physicians, psychiatrists and nurse specialists gather at the start of the day to discuss the most complicated patient and family situations. From this discussion, they agree on next steps and the most appropriate practitioner to carry out these steps, based on information such as the patient’s needs and relationships to practitioners on the supportive care team. » Continue Reading


Couples cope best with breast cancer when they cope together

February 12, 2015 | by

Even the most loving and secure relationship can be rattled by a life-threatening illness.

breast cancer

Couples Coping with Cancer Together integrates couples counseling as a standard part of breast cancer treatment.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, research shows one of the most important factors in helping her cope is having a supportive partner. But that partner can struggle with knowing what to say or how to best support their loved one.

Through research and clinical experience with breast cancer and relationships, City of Hope has found that specific skills and behaviors can help a couple grow closer despite the stress of cancer. That’s why City of Hope created the Couples Coping with Cancer Together program, which is solely funded by private donations.

“We are the only program of our kind,” said Courtney Bitz, L.C.S.W., a social worker in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and head of the Couples Coping with Cancer Together program. “We make this support and counseling a standard part of the care. We normalize it, and take away the stigma. Even the healthiest of couples can struggle – it’s not only couples who were already having difficulties who struggle with a cancer diagnosis.” » Continue Reading


Avon grant will benefit metastatic breast cancer patients’ unique needs

February 6, 2015 | by

A woman confronting metastatic breast cancer faces challenges that, at the outset, seem overwhelming. Research tells us these patients are especially vulnerable to anxiety, depression, hopelessness and other sources of distress. At the same time, they are asked to make complicated choices about their medical care — such as whether to participate in a clinical trial, choosing between available therapies and weighing a treatment’s effectiveness against quality-of-life issues.

metastatic breast cancer

City of Hope is launching a program to address the needs of couples confronting metastatic breast cancer.

The good news is, supportive care has been shown to successfully help these women through this difficult time. Even the healthiest of relationships or couples may struggle with knowing how to best support one another and maintain an emotional connection when women are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and they need it the most.

Despite the fact that a woman’s partner is a crucial source of support through her cancer treatment, few programs explicitly seek to promote strong relationships between couples facing this diagnosis together and strong communication with their doctors.

With the help of a $55,000 grant from the Avon Foundation, City of Hope is creating the most comprehensive program for metastatic breast cancer patients in Southern California. The program marries City of Hope’s existing leading-edge, innovative care and access to clinical trials with enhanced support services to serve the patient’s needs beyond the clinic and operating room. The grant will help establish the Supporting Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients and Partners Program, the first of its kind for metastatic breast cancer patients in the region.

“Data show that the two most important sources of support for women with metastatic breast cancer are a supportive partner and a physician who connects with them through open and honest communication,” said Matthew J. Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs and director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope. “This is a new approach to patient- and family-centered care.” » Continue Reading


Palliative care should begin on Day 1 of cancer care

February 3, 2015 | by

With more advanced cancer treatments and therapies saving lives every day, it’s safe to say cancer is “Not beyond us,” the official tagline for this year’s World Cancer Day.

palliative care

Palliative care is crucial in cancer – from Day 1 of treatment. Learn why.

This year’s World Cancer Day observance takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, and focuses on cancer prevention, detection and treatments. The awareness campaign highlights four key areas: healthy lifestyle, early detection, treatment for all and maximizing quality of life.

To explain the importance of quality of life, including pain management and palliative care, Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Nursing Research and Education at City of Hope, answers questions about how providers, caregivers and patients can maximize the quality of life for themselves and loved ones.

Why is it important to incorporate palliative care at Day 1 of cancer treatment?

Palliative care is intended to address quality of life concerns from the time of diagnosis. There is strong recognition that attending to symptoms and psychosocial concerns and focusing on goals of care for each patient is vital throughout the course of the disease.

» Continue Reading


Geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn: Older adults need special care

January 20, 2015 | by

Age is the single greatest risk factor overall for cancer; our chances of developing the disease rise steeply after age 50. For geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn, the meaning is clear: Cancer is primarily a geriatric condition. That’s why she is forging inroads in the care of older adults with cancer.

Nurse Peggy Burhenn

Geriatric oncology nurse Peggy Burhenn at City of Hope, has received the 2014 Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year Award.

Burhenn, M.S., C.N.S., A.O.C.N.S., is a professional practice leader in geriatric oncology in the Department of Clinical Practice and Professional Education at City of Hope. She focuses on the needs of older adults with cancer, researching better treatments for them and teaching other clinicians the best approach to caring for this important population.

Her innovative work and excellence in clinical care recently earned her the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year Award from the Greater Los Angeles Oncology Nursing Society. The honor adds to a list of accolades and achievements that includes the Margo McCaffery Excellence in Pain Management Award and leadership roles on the National Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Older Adult Oncology Expert Panel and the International Society for Geriatric Oncology.

Burhenn earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She joined City of Hope in 2011 after nearly a decade as a nurse educator in the biotechnology industry and as a nurse oncologist at a private hematology-oncology practice. She said her work with older patients began early in her career, sparked to some degree by her own parents’ experience with aging. » Continue Reading


SupportScreen app reaches 10,000 patients

November 6, 2014 | by
SupportScreen

Talking about their cancer and their needs can be difficult for some patients. City of Hope’s SupportScreen makes that conversation easier for patients.

Patients faced with a cancer diagnosis have a lot to take in. It’s no surprise that many need help airing their concerns to their care teams. That’s why a City of Hope team developed SupportScreen, to enable patients to communicate their needs better.

Last week, the tablet-based app hit an important milestone, screening its 10,000th patient.

The achievement comes at an important time, as new accreditation standards go into effect in January 2015 from two important organizations charged with evaluating cancer care providers — the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The standards focus on screening for psychosocial distress, unmet needs and other psychosocial barriers to care, which SupportScreen was designed to address.

» Continue Reading