March 12, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions About Hospice and Palliative Care

Navigating your medical journey can be confusing and frustrating. Here are some commonly asked questions on Palliative Care:

What is palliative care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. It is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. The goal is to improve your quality of life.


How do I know if palliative care is right for me?

Palliative care may be right for you if you have a serious illness. Serious illnesses include but are not limited to: cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and many more. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness. You can also have this type of care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.


What does the palliative care team do?

The palliative care team works on a “whole person” basis. They will work with all aspects of the patient’s life to provide the best possible quality of life.To do this, the palliative care team will:

  • Relieve your symptoms and distress
  • Help you better understand your disease and diagnosis
  • Help clarify your treatment goals and options
  • Understand and support your ability to cope with your illness
  • Assist you in making medical decisions
  • Coordinate with your other doctors

What can I expect from palliative care?

Palliative care will help you carry on with daily life. It will improve your ability to go through medical treatments and match your goals to your treatment choices. Palliative care will also provide relief from symptoms ranging from pain to constipation to difficulty sleeping. You can also expect close communication and more control over your care. In short, palliative care will improve your quality of life.


Will my insurance cover palliative care?

Most insurance plans cover all or part of palliative care, just as with other hospital and medical services. This is also true of Medicare and Medicaid. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you with payment options.


Do I have to give up my own doctor?

No. The palliative care team provides an extra layer of support and works in partnership with your established care physicians.


Can I have curative treatment together with palliative care?

Yes, absolutely.  Your treatment choices are up to you. You can have palliative care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.


Who else, besides the patient, can benefit?

Everyone involved! Patients, as well as family caregivers, benefit from extra support, more control in treatment path, and a better quality of time together. Nurses and doctors involved benefit from having clear directives, and knowing that they are giving care that best adheres to the wishes of the patient.


Where do I get palliative care?

Palliative care is available in a number of places, including in a hospital, outpatient clinic, or patient’s home. You, your doctor, and the palliative care team can discuss what palliative care options are best for you.


Who provides palliative care?

A palliative care team includes palliative care doctors and nurses. It may also include other support members such as therapists or clergy, to ensure that all of your needs are being met.


How does palliative care help me choose the best treatment option?

Palliative care focuses on your quality of life wishes. The palliative care team will spend time talking and listening to you and your family. They will make sure you completely understand all of your treatment options and choices.By exploring your goals,  the palliative care team will help you match those goals to the options available. You’re also given more control over your care as the palliative team keeps all of your doctors coordinated and informed about your wishes.


When should I ask for palliative care?

Palliative care can be beneficial at any stage of an illness, but it is recommended early in your illness. You are able to request palliative care as soon as you are diagnosed. It is to help you navigate your illnesses, and maintain as full of a life as possible. With certain diagnoses, such as advanced cancer, it is recommended that you begin palliative care within 8 weeks.


How do I get palliative care?

Ask for it! Your journey into palliative care starts with a conversation with your doctor or nurse .

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