More than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, and the number is growing. They’re living a lot longer with the condition, thanks to advances in treatment, but that means there are many more people who require specialized care.

Beth Fahlberg will teach nurses, social workers, and case managers evidence-based strategies for managing the needs of patients and their caregivers.

Beth Fahlberg will teach nurses, social workers, and case managers evidence-based strategies for managing the needs of patients and their caregivers.

Heart Failure: Supportive and Palliative Approaches to Care will teach nurses, social workers, and case managers evidence-based strategies for managing the needs of patients and their caregivers. Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, it runs April 14 at Madison’s OIbrich Botanical Gardens, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“The burdens patients and their families live with can be overwhelming,” says instructor Beth Fahlberg, who directs aging and supportive and palliative care programs at Continuing Studies. “The tools we’ll provide will help clinicians meet their needs, especially when there’s little more to be done with devices, medications, and treatments. This is when focusing on psycho-social support, a patient’s comfort, and family well-being is crucial to making the final part of people’s lives as good as possible.”

Fahlberg and her fellow instructors for Heart Failure: Supportive and Palliative Approaches to Care—Nora J. Brennan, Erin Donaho, and Shreda Paire—are national leaders in the field.

“We’ve been working closely with the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses, the Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association, and the Heart Failure Society of America,” Fahlberg says. “We’ve developed a community of practice around heart failure and palliative care with national groups that are leading the way in identifying models of care and research priorities.”

Along with being expert nurses, the four instructors have a personal connection to palliative care.

“We have our own stories from our family members, and that’s what motivates us,” Fahlberg says. “We’ve seen palliative care work in our own families, and our collaboration has grown out of that experience.”

Case scenarios

Heart Failure: Supportive and Palliative Approaches to Care will cover 10 principles of supportive and palliative care, applicable in any setting by any inter-professional team member. The instructors will discuss case scenarios, facilitating collaborative problem-solving about common barriers and ethical dilemmas.

“There will be a lot of interactive discussions about strategies to deal with problems that people encounter in caring for heart failure patients,” Fahlberg says. “We will address strategies for managing physical symptoms as well as important psycho-social elements like anxiety, depression, and the caregivers’ burden.”

The course will also help participants understand when it is time to refer someone with heart failure to hospice.

“This is often a challenge for people to figure out,” Fahlberg says. “We’ll talk about what hospice care for heart patients should look like, tailored to disease-specific aspects of end-stage heart failure care.”

Nurses, social workers, and case managers interested in learning foundational primary palliative care content can also register for Easing the Burden of Again and Illness: Integrating Supportive and Palliative Care, which will be held right before this course on April 12-13 at Olbrich Gardens. It will serve as good preparation for Heart Failure: Supportive and Palliative Approaches to Care, though people can sign up for the sessions individually.

For more information, contact Beth Fahlberg, beth.fahlberg@wisc.edu, 608-890-3628.