Palliative Care FAQ

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

It may be right for you if you suffer from pain, stress and other symptoms due to a serious illness. Serious illnesses include but are not limited to: cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis. Palliative care can be used at any stage of illness, not just advanced stages.

Who else, besides the patient, can benefit from palliative care?

Everyone involved! Patients as well as family caregivers are the special focus of palliative care. Your doctors and nurses benefit, too, because they know they are meeting their patients’ needs by providing care that reduces suffering and improves quality of life.

Does my insurance pay for palliative care?

Most insurance plans cover all or part of the palliative care treatment you receive in the hospital, as with other hospital and medical services. This is also true of Medicare and Medical. Drugs and medical supplies and equipment may also be covered. If costs concern you, ask to speak with a social worker.

Can I get palliative care if I am at home?

Yes. After symptoms and pain have been managed and are under control, you and your doctor can discuss outpatient palliative care.

What does palliative care involve?

* Pain and symptom control: Your palliative care team will identify your sources of pain and discomfort. These may include problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, bowel or bladder. Then the team will provide treatments that can offer relief. These might include medication, along with guided imagery or relaxation techniques.

* Communication and coordination: Palliative Care clinicians place great emphasis on communication between you, your family and your doctors in order to ensure that your needs are fully met. These include establishing goals for your care, aid in decision-making and seamless coordination of care.

* Emotional support: Palliative care focuses on the entire person, not just his or her illness. The team members caring for you will address any social, psychological, emotional or spiritual needs you may have.

* Family/caregiver support: Caregivers bear a great deal of stress too, so the palliative care team supports them as well. This focused attention helps ease some of the strain and can help you with your decision-making.

What can I expect from palliative care?

You can expect to have more control over your care and a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that reduces anxiety and stress. Your specialized plan of care is reviewed regularly by the Palliative Care team and discussed with you to make sure your needs and wishes are being met and that your treatments align with your goals.

You can expect relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Palliative care addresses the whole person. It helps you carry on with your daily life. It improves your ability to go through medical treatments. And it helps you better understand your condition and your choices for medical care.

Does treatment meant to cure me stop when palliative care begins?

No. You can get palliative care at any stage of illness, no matter what your diagnosis or prognosis.

Who provides palliative care?

Usually a team of experts, including palliative care doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains provide this type of care.

What role does my doctor play?

The hallmark of palliative care is a team approach to patient care. Your treating physician will continue to direct your care and play an active part in your treatment. The palliative care team provides support to and works in partnership with your treating physician.

What is hospice care?

Hospice care is for a patient who has a terminal diagnosis and is usually no longer seeking curative treatment. It focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients who are expected to live for months, not years. Hospice care is provided in the home, in a residential setting or an alternate residential setting.

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

No. Hospice care provides care and support for those approaching the last stages of life.


How does Hoag handle advance health care directives? Do you honor them?

Yes. Hoag honors the advance health care directives of our patients, and hospital staff and practitioners who provide care in the hospital must follow the health care decisions of a patient’s agent or surrogate. However, Hoag providers may decline to comply with an individual health care instruction or decision for reasons of conscience, or because the care would be medically ineffective or contrary to generally accepted health care standards. If this causes a disagreement with an agent or surrogate that cannot be resolved, the hospital staff and practitioners will make every reasonable effort to find another health care provider to take over your treatment. Advance health care directive forms can be downloaded by clicking here. If you have specific questions about your care, we encourage you to speak directly to your physician.