Samaritan: Life-Enhancing Care Options at any Stage


Quality of life for Terry Sheerin means spending time with her horse

Once she got over the shock of being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Terry Sheerin knew she would do whatever was needed to get relief from her distressing symptoms so she could continue to live her best life. That meant admitting she needed help managing her medications and dealing with symptoms. Still, when her physicians suggested she try Samaritan’s palliative care specialists, she hesitated.

Truth be told, Sheerin knew all about Samaritan’s stellar reputation for providing comfort, care and support in the final months of life – that’s hospice. What she didn’t realize was that hospice is one of the many life-enhancing services Samaritan provides patients and families in South Jersey. Samaritan’s Palliative Medical Partners treat adults of all ages living with serious diseases, such as cancer, heart disease or, as in Sheerin’s case, COPD. And that care can begin as early as the onset of the illness. Once Sheerin found that out, she realized Samaritan’s palliative medical care was exactly what she needed.

Under the care of Stephen Goldfine, MD, Samaritan’s Chief Medical Officer, Sheerin is closely connected with her team of Samaritan health experts who in turn are closely monitoring and managing her healthcare.

“I am a type A person and I need control – and if I’m not in control, I need clear, concise and honest communication,” says Sheerin. “After meeting with Dr. Goldfine, that is EXACTLY what happened.”

Founded in Moorestown in 1980 as one of the country’s first hospices, Samaritan now provides an expanded range of life-enhancing services for nearly 11,000 patients and their families annually in 5 New Jersey counties. Still, Dr. Goldfine, who has been with Samaritan for nearly 20 years, is used to making sure people understand exactly what palliative medicine is and how it enhances the quality of life at any stage.

“It’s a medical specialty, like cardiology or oncology,” he says. “We are experts in relieving the pain, distress and suffering caused by disease. We’re focused on helping our patients stay at home, preventing avoidable hospitalizations and supporting their families.”

A major goal of palliative care – separating it from most medical specialties – is making sure a patient’s treatment goals are defined and followed, Dr. Goldfine says.

“We are uniquely qualified to help patients define what’s important to them in terms of the quality of their lives moving forward and their healthcare preferences,” he says. “Our team of providers – composed of physicians, nurse practitioners, RNs, case managers and social workers – focus on making sure we understand and meet our patients’ goals. The earlier we get involved helping patients living with serious illness, the better. Studies show patients may even live longer with palliative care.”

Getting diagnosed with a terminal illness often forces people to face some difficult decisions, adds Dr. Goldfine. But the reality is that Samaritan’s palliative care specialists can coordinate with a patient’s primary care doctor and other specialists to provide an added layer of support from diagnosis through treatment and recovery.

“One of the unique aspects of palliative care is that team approach,” he says. “We can provide a much higher level of care and more services. We do a lot of counseling and provide medical decision support. Sometimes a patient just needs someone who will sit and listen to them as they work through their emotions. I may not do anything in terms of managing medicine or treatment, but just listening to them is reassuring and helps them.” Another way that Samaritan furthers the goal of life-enhancing care is through its HomeVisit Physicians, providing house calls for homebound patients of all ages living with chronic conditions including heart or lung disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, dementia and more. Serving families in Burlington, Gloucester and Camden counties, HomeVisit Physicians visit patients wherever they live, at home, nursing facility or assisted living community to provide convenient, coordinated preventative care.

Andrea and Darryl Gladden serve as passionate advocates for Samaritan’s palliative care services in honor of their daughter Deadre

Kenneth Giacobbo, DO, the founder and director of HomeVisit Physicians, started making house calls to patients early in his career when he realized that often the patients requiring the most care were also those having the most difficulty making routine visits to the doctor’s office. He leads a team of 7 physicians, nurse practitioners and a physician’s assistant who do everything from routine examinations, wound care, performing EKGs and pulmonary function testing, to arranging consultations with specialists. Patients have 24-hour access to Samaritan medical specialists who stay in close communication with the patient’s other physicians and healthcare providers.

“We are not a concierge practice for people who don’t want to wait in the waiting room,” says Dr. Giacobbo. “We’re really helping people who have a hard time getting to their primary doctor’s office. Our patients range from a 102-year-old with mobility issues to people in their 20s on ventilators. We give them the medical oversight and evaluation they need to keep their health at an optimum condition and keep them out of the hospitals.”

Meeting people where they are, he says, works well for everyone.

“We work as a team with the patient, their family and other physicians,” he says. “A lot of adult children are working and involved with their own children, so they don’t have time to take their parents to routine visits. We do it and are in close communication with the families. It reduces everyone’s stress and improves the quality of life.”

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