General Internal Medicine
Your Questions Answered
How do you get palliative care?
Ask your doctor to put you in touch with the palliative care team. A palliative care team includes a doctor, nurse practitioner, social worker, and chaplain with special training. The team works with you and all your health care providers to give you extra help during your illness.
Who can be helped by palliative care?
Palliative care may be beneficial to anyone with a serious illness or health problem. Even kids can be helped by palliative care.
When can you get palliative care?
You can get palliative care as soon as you are told about your serious illness or health problem. These illnesses can include heart, lung, kidney or liver failure, cancer, and some memory or neurologic problems. Palliative care can be given at the same time you are being treated to cure your illness.
Is palliative care the same as hospice care?
Hospice care is a type of palliative care, but palliative care is much broader than hospice. You can receive palliative care for many years, but hospice care begins in the final months of life. Both include a team of care providers to help the patient and support the family.
Can a family member or friend help with your care?
Yes. You have the right to have a personal representative, or advocate, with you when you get treatment and services. Tell your providers who your advocate is. Also tell them what information you would like shared with your advocate.
Are services and support offered to your family and friends?
Yes. Your palliative care team can teach your family and friends how to care for you. They can also provide emotional support to your family and friends throughout your illness.
How will you pay for palliative care?
Palliative care is often covered by insurance and government programs.
What questions might the palliative care providers ask you?
- Do you have questions about your illness or health problem?
- Do you know what your treatment choices are? Do you need to have the choices explained?
- What are your needs and wishes for care?
- How do you want to make decisions about your care?
- Do you have any symptoms that are bothering you right now?
- What can we do to make you more comfortable?
- What gives meaning to your life?
- How can we help you and your family cope with the changes caused by your illness? Do you and your family need emotional support?
- Do you have a health care power of attorney? If you do not have one, a palliative care provider can help you write down your wishes.
- Would you like to receive spiritual help? Many people find that speaking with a chaplain helps them cope with their illness.
What questions should you ask your palliative care providers?
- What services do you provide? What are the costs of the services?
- Are they certified/licensed?
- Is staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
- Who is the main contact person on the team? How do you reach that person? How often will you talk with them?
- How will they create your palliative care treatment plan? Do they welcome ideas from you and your family about the plan?
- How do they work with your regular doctor and other care providers?
- What can they do to help make your daily life easier? For example, can they recommend a support group or help with transportation? Can they visit you at home?
- Can they provide pain medicines that you cannot get over-the-counter?
- Can they provide an interpreter?
- Do they offer treatments such as massage or music therapy?
- How will your personal, religious, or cultural beliefs be addressed?
- Can someone from your faith work with the palliative care chaplain to make sure your spiritual needs are met?
Where can you get palliative care?
Palliative care can be provided in hospitals, clinics, hospices, nursing homes, and your home. Ask:
- Where are palliative care services provided in your area?
- Can you get palliative care services in a place that is convenient for you?
- What happens if you have to move from your home to the hospital, nursing home or other location?
Where can you find more information?
- Doctors who specialize in palliative care – www.palliativedoctors.org
- Hospitals that offer palliative care – www.getpalliativecare.org/providers
- Information about coping – www.helpstartshere.org
- Palliative care providers and hospices – www.caringinfo.org
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization - www.nhpco.org
- Joint Commission certified palliative care programs – www.qualitycheck.org/help_certified_orgs.aspx