Palliative Care Program Offers Peace of Mind

Palliative Care Program Offers Peace of Mind

Jay Hofecker was used to leading an active life. A retired electrical engineer, Hofecker kept busy working as a concierge at a local hotel, serving on the board of his condominium association and participating in activities with three Lions Club chapters, including one that he founded. When pain in his right leg began to sideline him from those endeavors, Hofecker went to see his doctor. In August 2008, Hofecker was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. The cancer had metastasized and a tumor was growing on his spine, aggravating nerves and causing the pain in his leg.

"It went from what I thought was a minor problem to this serious thing," he said.

Janet Bull, a physician and vice president of medical services at Four Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, helps bring peace of mind to Jay Hofecker and his wife Sandy during his battle with cancer.

Focus on Quality of Life

Hofecker began radiation treatments, followed by chemotherapy. To help with the pain, extreme weight loss and other symptoms he experienced from the sickness, his radiologist recommended that Hofecker contact Four Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care in Hendersonville, N.C., for palliative care. For those living with illness, palliative care provides coordinated support for medical, emotional and spiritual issues, helping patients and their families better manage health and life. Because palliative care can be provided regardless of a person's life expectancy and at the same time as curative treatments, Hofecker receives care through Four Seasons while still undergoing chemotherapy.

Since his diagnosis, Hofecker said he's discovered that palliative care is much more—providing help for the many challenges he's faced in fighting cancer, and giving him and his wife peace of mind.

Through the support of The Duke Endowment, Four Seasons has established and expanded its palliative care program to serve more patients like Hofecker. Four Seasons is also piloting a statewide database project with Duke Cancer Care Research Program. By collecting and analyzing data from multiple palliative care programs across the Carolinas, providers will be better equipped to develop targeted initiatives to improve the quality of care patients receive.

"For patients, one of the strongest benefits of palliative care is the holistic approach that providers take," said Janet Bull, a physician and vice president of medical services at Four Seasons. "We focus on what the patients' goals are and how we can best help improve their quality of life."

Support for Family

In addition to relieving Hofecker's symptoms through medication and nutrition supplements, care providers at Four Seasons are helping Hofecker and his wife navigate the financial stress from cancer treatment costs—something the couple said was one of their biggest worries. Four Seasons staff continually evaluate Hofecker's medications to determine which are beneficial and which he might discontinue, offer suggestions for lower-cost alternatives, and direct him to pharmacies with better prices on prescriptions. Hofecker also took part in a clinical research trial, supported by Four Seasons, which significantly helped to treat his cancer pain.

The expertise and care provided by Four Seasons staff is especially appreciated by Sonnya Hofecker, Jay's wife of 21 years.

"They have really been supportive of me as well," she said. "They've been very good about giving us information and helping with his pain and weight loss. They've just been a lifesaver for both of us."

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Lin B. Hollowell III
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