Palliative Care Information

-copyright Hospice Foundation of America

There are three basic care options to consider if you or a loved one is facing a diagnosis that has a poor prognosis.  Spiritual, cultural, social and economic diversity may influence your thinking and preferences.  Yet often, it is a lack of information that precludes an informed conversation and decision.  Understanding options informs both a conversation and a decision, whether you decide to:

  • Continue efforts to cure
    • Some people do not want to stop attempts to cure or treat an illness or condition until death occurs, although there is a chance that such attempts may become emotionally and financially stressful and physically intolerable. At some point in the course of illness, curative treatment may need to come to a halt because the person cannot physically withstand, for example, additional surgery or chemotherapy.
  • Receive palliative care alongside of curative care or receive palliative care alone
    • Palliative care, or pain and symptom management and relief, can be administered in conjunction with curative treatment if palliative care expertise is available in your area. This may be a good option for individuals uncertain of prognosis or not ready or willing to stop curative efforts.  Some people may need or opt for palliative care early in their illness while they are receiving curative treatment and move later into hospice care.
    • In fact, hospice clinicians are expert palliative care providers and many hospices now offer palliative care services that are distinct from their hospice services. Palliative care may also be provided if curative efforts stop, and it may be administered in an outpatient or inpatient basis, including at a patient’s residence.
  • Choose hospice care, opting for comfort measures that support both you and your family
    • Hospice care provides care to the patient and the entire family unit. With hospice, curative attempts are replaced by palliative care to eliminate or greatly reduce pain and symptoms associated with the illness.  Hospice also provides supplies and equipment (such as a hospital bed or oxygen), seeking to improve the quality of life of the patient while also supporting the family helping to care for the patient.  Most hospice care is provided at a person’s residence, which is broadly defined.
    • Hospice care offers its range of services fora variety of illnesses and conditions through a team approach, offering a package that is physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually supportive. Patients and familes can chose to use some or all of the services offered.  Hospic also offers bereavement counseling to family members for at least a year following a death.  Studies have shown that in some cases, hospice care can extend a person’s life expectancy.
    • At the present time, curative treatment cannnot be provided with hospice care, but the federal government Is running trial programs to test the idea. Hospice Foundation of America supports this effort.
  • Speaking with loved ones
    • Discussing a care path or a change in the goal for care may be difficult for family members and close friends. Unless they have had a previous experience with someone living with advanced, progressive illness, they may be frightened, stressed and exhausted.  Families and friends may not be familiar with hospice and all that it can do for both the patient and the caregiver(s).  Hospice professionals are experienced in dealing with such circumstances and can help facilitate such discussion.  It is better to initiate such discussions as soon  as possible.  The most common comment that HFA hears from patients and families is that they wish they had experienced hospice care eariler in the illness.

Click here for a list of local hospice providers.