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Style Magazine

Partners in Care

Oct 05, 2012 09:50AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.

It’s a story many of us have only seen in movies.

Someone enters the doctor’s office feeling fine, but leaves with frightening news they have a serious or even life-threatening disease. It makes for good drama in Hollywood, but in real life words can’t describe the impact of such a diagnosis. How do you tell your family? How do you make decisions about your health care? And if the worst happens, how do you make sure your family knows your wishes, and that their needs are met?

Those were the questions a small group of hospice and health care workers sought to answer when they created Partners in Care in 2001. “There were no resources or services for people who had to deal with a serious illness, but didn’t yet need hospice care,” says Nancy Symons, M.Div., executive director for Partners in Care. “Partners in Care was created to fill that gap. Our mission is to support the dignity and choice of people walking the path of serious illness and do all we can to improve their quality of life.”

The program, which is provided at no cost to the community, was launched with a $500,000 grant from the California Endowment. Today it serves an average of 70 clients at any given time – a big load for a highly compassionate staff of five. Collectively, they work to assist clients with every conceivable service, including some that patients may not even know they need.

A staff chaplain provides spiritual and emotional support, while two staff nurses and a medical director provide consultative care to help clients understand their treatment and pain management options, and assist them in better communicating with their doctors. There’s also a social worker to help with financial and family concerns, including development of an advance directive for health care. As a team, their purpose is to provide a measure of relief from the physical, emotional and spiritual distress a serious illness creates. “Whenever someone receives a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, they’re ready for our services,” Symons says. “And we’re here for people of any age. Serious illness isn’t limited to the elderly.”

As a private and independent non-profit organization, Partners in Care isn’t constrained by government regulations, but the tradeoff is that it isn’t subsidized with public funds. The $350,000 annual budget is met with grants, private donations, a thrift store operation, and fundraising events like “Night at the Theater,” to be held October 5. The event will feature entertainment, food and wine, and a benefit auction.

“We can also use volunteers, but most of all, I really want people in our community to know this service is available now, and no one needs to wait until it’s too difficult to manage care for themselves or a loved one before they get help,” Symons says. “Help is here, and it’s only a phone call away.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for ‘Night at the Theater,’ visit