Posts tagged ‘supportive care’


Supportive care innovator Matthew Loscalzo on City of Hope: ‘We’re unique’

May 20, 2015 | by

Matthew Loscalzo, administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine.

Eight years ago, Matthew Loscalzo surprised himself by accepting the offer to become City of Hope’s administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and executive director of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. At the time, he was administrative director of the Science of Caring Department he had founded at UC San Diego, and he loved it. He thought it would be his last professional gig.

But City of Hope made him the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. “It took a lot of chutzpah for them to have this vision,” Loscalzo said in a New York accent as thick as cream cheese. Armed with best-in-show credentials, he directed the organization of a department in a way no other cancer center had dared to conjure.

Loscalzo’s success in establishing and sustaining the department is only the latest of his remarkable achievements, which have been recognized recently with two prestigious awards. In October, he received the Noemi Fisman Award for Lifetime Clinical Excellence from the International Psycho-Oncology Society. This year, he received the Holland Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.

“I get recognition because my team is smarter than I am,” Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., was quick to acknowledge. “I work with a bunch of people who are fantastic.” » Continue Reading


SupportScreen: Digital confidante expands to new languages and all ages

May 10, 2015 | by
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The tablet-based program SupportScreen prompts patients to share personal concerns about their health and helps them jump-start their care.

Many City of Hope cancer patients are opening their hearts to an electronic confidante. The tablet-based program, called SupportScreen, prompts them to share deeply personal concerns about their health — and helps jump-start their care.

“We’ve found that people will reveal more to a machine than to a person. Technology provides distance and seems to make it easier for them to ask for assistance,” said Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs, and co-creator of SupportScreen.

Developed at City of Hope, the touch-screen application asks patients a wide range of questions that address physical and psychosocial concerns common to their diagnosis. Sample questions include, “Are you worried about pain?” “Do you need help with an advance directive?” “Do you want clergy support?” The moment a patient completes the questionnaire, an appropriate member of their health care team is alerted by email. If a patient has requested written information on a topic, educational information prints out at a nearby station and is quickly handed over. » Continue Reading


City of Hope helps build supportive care programs around the world

April 21, 2015 | by

Cancer patients need, and deserve, more than medical care. They and their families need high-quality supportive care – that is, care that addresses their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Health care professionals increasingly understand this, but starting such programs from scratch isn’t easy. That’s where City of Hope comes in.

supportive care

To provide truly superb supportive care, caregivers must address all the physical, mental and spiritual pieces of a patient’s life. Already experts in this type of supportive care, City of Hope caregivers are now training others around the world how to create their own programs.

An international pioneer in integrated care,  the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at City of Hope provides a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and numerous other caregivers who work together to assess what cancer patients and their families need, and then fulfill those needs. Now, the department is teaching other hospitals and caregivers how to do the same.

In 2012 and 2013, the National Cancer Institute awarded two five-year grants – of $1.5 million and $1.6 million – to City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center to, essentially, help change the world of supportive care. The first grant was intended to fund the training of cancer health care and administrative professionals in how to build and enhance supportive care programs. The second grant was meant to train the same population of professionals in how to implement comprehensive biopsychosocial screening programs.

These training programs are now well underway. » Continue Reading


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