Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about Palliative Care. Obviously this list doesn’t cover every possible question, but there are many online resources (eg: National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) that provide a 1-800 number for any other queries you might have.
What is Palliative Care?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (NIH), “[p]alliative care is comprehensive treatment of the discomfort, symptoms and stress of serious illness. It does not replace your primary treatment; palliative care works together with the primary treatment you’re receiving. The goal is to prevent and ease suffering and improve your quality of life.”
What patients are eligible to receive palliative care?
Anyone of any age who is dealing with a serious or life-threatening illness is eligible regardless of diagnosis or their ability to pay.
Does Palliative care include support for family members?
Your palliative care plan will include practical, emotional and spiritual support for family members. Practical support comes in the form of education and instructions on how to care for the patient and their symptoms, and discussion about treatment options.
What can I expect from palliative care?
Palliative care provides:
• Expert treatment of pain and other symptoms
• Planning and discussion about treatment options to manage disease and symptoms
• Coordination and communication with other health care team members
• Assurance that the patient’s wishes for and during care are followed as closely as possible
How does Palliative care improve my quality of life?
Palliative care helps relieve symptoms of pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and many other symptoms that can affect a patient’s ability to participate in normal, day-to-day activities. Palliative care can also help patients deal with any side effects of any medications or treatments.
“…[Y]our palliative care team combines vigorous pain and symptom control into every part of your treatment…to help you fully understand your condition, care options and other needs…[resulting] in well-planned, complete treatment for all of your symptoms throughout your illness…and anticipates your future needs” (NIH).
Who will be part of my palliative care team?
Your palliative care team may include a variety of people:
• Social workers
Will I have to give up my current family doctor or primary care physician?
You do not have to give up your own doctor. Your palliative care team will need to work together with your doctor to determine what kind of care you need.
Is it too early to start Palliative care?
You may want to consider palliative care if you or your loved one:
• Suffers from pain or other symptoms due to ANY serious illness.
• Experiences physical or emotional pain that is NOT under control.
• Needs help understanding your situation and coordinating your care ...
“[P]alliative care occurs at the same time as all the other treatments for your illness and does not depend upon the course of your disease” (NIH). Taking care of a loved one with a serious illness can take a tremendous toll on the patient as well as the caregivers in terms of managing pain and symptoms on top of dealing with the fatigue and overall stress of caring for another. Your palliative team is aware of this and are willing and able to help.
As soon as you need it, ask for it.
Is Palliative care covered by my insurance plan?
Most insurance plans cover all or a portion of palliative care, as do Medicare and Medicaid. To be sure, contact your insurance provider to find out if and how much of palliative care costs they do cover. Your social worker on your palliative care team can also help you find the answer to this question.
“If you think you need palliative care, ask for it now. Tell your health care provider that you’d like to add palliative care specialists to your treatment team and request a consultation” (NIH).
National Institute of Nursing Research http://www.ninr.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/01CC45F1-048B-468A-BD9F-3AB727A381D2/0/NINR_PalliativeBrochure_Brochure_12_Layout_Version_508.pdf
Boston Medical Center
Reviewed on August 25, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith