Serious Illness Care

Maximize Quality of Life for People With Serious Illness 

Learn more about how we're taking action
Larry Stupski

Co-Founder, Stupski Foundation

“My experience caring for my husband, Larry, at the end of his life showed me the great need to change how seriously ill patients and their loved ones experience the end of life.” - Joyce Stupski
You or your loved one

Living with a serious illness

You and your loved ones should receive the type of care you want, in the manner you want it, free from unnecessary suffering.

The challenge:

Too many people living with serious illness experience unnecessary suffering and receive care inconsistent with their wishes and values.

Even while experiencing a serious illness, everyone should be able to live a life marked by dignity, connectedness, and caring. Unfortunately, people living with a serious illness report alarming levels of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. One in 4 individuals nationwide experienced unmet needs for pain, half suffered from a lack of emotional support, and almost 2 in 3 had spiritual or religious concerns. In addition to experiencing unnecessary suffering, people with a serious illness don’t always receive care consistent with their preferences. In a recent study of the San Francisco Bay Area, 1 in 5 family caregivers reported that their seriously ill family member received “too little care,” particularly pain and symptom management, during their last month of life. While there are unmet needs across all people experiencing serious illness, particularly at this time of immense need, the gap is even more significant within the Black, Asian, and Latino communities.

A better experience is possible.

By working with our communities and funding proven solutions, Stupski Foundation is committed to changing the experience of people living with a serious illness in San Francisco and Alameda Counties. 

For our founders, Joyce and Larry Stupski, improving serious illness care was personal. After caring for Larry during his decade-long battle with prostate cancer, Joyce expanded the Foundation’s focus to improve how seriously ill patients and their loved ones experience serious illness and the end of life. Since Joyce’s passing, we remain committed to realizing her mission with our community partners.

Solutions exist:

Serious illness care services

 

There are evidence-based services designed to maximize quality of life for people with a serious illness.  These services are proven to help reduce unnecessary suffering and ensure all people receive care that is consistent with their wishes and values.

 

Stupski Foundation is prioritizing funding for the following serious illness care services:

Palliative Care

Palliative care is a medical specialty for people living with a serious illness. It is provided by a specialty-trained team of doctors, nurses, chaplains, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of physical, emotional, and spiritual support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness and is provided along with curative treatment. People who receive palliative care report higher levels of relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness and higher quality of life.

Advance Care Planning and Goals of Care Conversations

Advance care planning is a process that supports adults at any age or stage of health in understanding and sharing their personal values, life goals, and preferences regarding future medical care. Goals of care conversations take place between patients and clinicians to inform current medical care based on a person’s values, life goals, and preferences. People who engage in advance care planning and goals of care conversations are more likely to receive medical care that is consistent with their values, goals, and preferences during serious illness.  

Family Caregiver Support

Family caregivers provide significant care to people with serious illness and often experience negative health effects from being a caregiver. Family caregivers who receive caregiver support report lower rates of depression, anxiety, and burden and can provide better care to patients as a result. Examples of caregiver support include training in mindfulness, practical training in medical tasks, counseling, case management, and respite.  

 

What we fund:

To ensure people with serious illness receive the services they need, we are investing in three strategies in San Francisco and Alameda Counties

Connect Patients to Social Services

Coping with serious illness often requires more than medical care alone. Services such as food delivery, transportation to appointments, and home safety modifications can be critical to improving the lives of people with serious illness and their families. For example, home-delivered meals have been linked to improvements in mental health and delayed nursing home admissions. Although many of those social services are already available through government or community programs, people who are seriously ill and their caregivers are often unaware of those services and how to access them.

While our goal is to improve care for all people with serious illness, there is an even greater need in communities of color.  For example, compared to white Americans, Black, Asian, and Latino people have a lower use of hospice and higher use of the intensive care unit in the last days of life. They also are less likely to have talked to a decision-maker about the medical care they would want at the end of life or to have documented their wishes.  To close that gap, we are currently investing in strategies, organizations, and people who will reduce those racial disparities.

Strategy #1: Awareness, Education, and Acceptance

Patients and families are aware of and comfortable accepting serious illness care services.

Many patients and families are unaware of services that can help provide a better quality of life during a serious illness. Additionally, many patients and families face language, racial, and cultural barriers or distrust the medical system due to historical harms. We fund programs at local community organizations that create education, trust, and acceptance of serious illness care services like palliative care, advance care planning, and caregiver support programs. We also fund solutions to connect people with the social services that people with serious illness need the most.

Learn more about our grantee partners and our current grants supporting this strategy.

Strategy #2: Community-based Serious Illness Care

Patients and families receive serious illness care services from trusted community members.

Community-based programs that directly provide serious illness care services are not common, despite evidence that people are more likely to use and benefit from serious illness care services if offered from a trusted source. We fund community-based programs, staffed and led by community members, that provide culturally and linguistically relevant serious illness care services, including advance care planning, caregiver support, spiritual and emotional support, health system navigation, linkages to palliative care, and social services.

Learn more about our grantee partners and our current grants supporting this strategy.

Strategy #3: Supportive Healthcare Systems

Patients and families’ values are honored and their palliative care needs are met.

Historically, our health care systems have focused on treating disease, with few systems available for patients and families to provide their input or seek treatment for addressable symptoms of an illness (e.g., pain, depression). Within health care systems, we fund efforts to create and improve palliative care services. We also fund clinician training so that care teams can communicate effectively with patients and families about prognosis and understand their values, goals, and preferences.

Learn more about our grantee partners and our current grants supporting this strategy. 

In Hawai‘i, Stupski invests in organizations aligned with our focus areas. For serious illness care, in collaboration with Hawaiʻi-based partners, we are developing strategies and investments specific to Hawai‘i. We look forward to sharing those strategies soon.