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With LifeCourse™, Allina Health tries new ways to support patients with serious illness and their caregivers

MINNEAPOLIS 02/25/2014

More than 100 people die every day in Minnesota. Some deaths, from heart attacks and accidents, are unexpected. But most people die of causes that they might have had for months or years.

Allina Health is two years into a multi-year study called LifeCourse™ that could improve the way people with serious illnesses live. The LifeCourse team will work with about 350 study participants living with dementia, stage 3 and 4 cancer and heart failure.

"Patients and their loved ones often struggle with medical and non-medical challenges when living with a serious illness. They try to coordinate increasingly complicated care, and non-medical factors that influence critical care decisions are not effectively addressed," said Eric Anderson, MD, LifeCourse principal investigator.

"So often, patients are given care that health care providers assume they need. In LifeCourse, we want to start with the patient's story and what the patient wants and create a plan around that," said Sandra Schellinger, NP-C, LifeCourse co-investigator.

At the center of the LifeCourse care team is a specially trained non-clinical care guide who partners with patients, their family members and friends to learn what is most important to them to live well. The care guide is supported by a chaplain, marriage and family therapist, social worker, pharmacist and nurse who support the work of the care guide and provide resources to help patients live as they wish.

In the first year of LifeCourse, researchers have learned that patients and families often appreciate the chance to share their story with a skilled, compassionate listener. Physicians have expressed appreciation for the work of the care guide, who has helped them know their patient better. LifeCourse has been challenged to partner with many care teams and community services, so patients can make the most of their available resources.

The work of LifeCourse will be featured by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) in a six-episode documentary called "Late Life" that will premier March 18. The project is funded by the Robina Foundation, in partnership with Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Augustana Care and Walker Methodist.

About Abbott Northwestern Hospital

Abbott Northwestern Hospital is part of Allina Health. In addition to retaining its first place ranking for the best hospital in the Twin Cities and second in the State of Minnesota in the U.S. News & World Report's 2016-17 best hospital rankings, Abbott Northwestern has received nursing magnet certification, a recognition earned by only five percent of hospitals nationwide.

Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A not-for-profit health care system, Allina Health cares for patients from beginning to end-of-life through its 90+ clinics, 12 hospitals, 15 retail pharmacies, specialty care centers and specialty medical services, home care, home oxygen and medical equipment and emergency medical transportation services

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