Palliative care can help you feel better as a whole person-in your body, mind, and spirit. It helps you focus on "the big picture" of your life. Palliative care includes your family and loved ones.
Sometimes talking with someone who is not a friend or family member can help you see more clearly. This person could be a palliative care provider.
It is important to talk about your goals and wishes sooner rather than later. That way, you, your loved ones, and your doctors know what you want. If you choose, you can be a part of every decision about your care.
Palliative care works best with open communication. Try to focus on what you can do to improve communication with your palliative care provider. If you do not understand what is being said, ask questions until you do. You may want to write down your questions before your appointment or to bring a loved one to your appointment. Important questions to ask include:
- What is my diagnosis?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the side effects of these treatments?
- What do you think will happen if I choose not to treat my illness?
- How long do you think I have to live?
- How soon do I need to make a decision about which treatment to use (or to not use)?
- How will my illness and care affect my loved ones?
You might talk about many things during a palliative care visit, including:
Treatment. You get to decide how well your treatment is working and if you want to continue it. Maybe you really want to see your grandson graduate, so you decide to continue treatment even though it makes you feel sick. Or maybe you prefer to stop or limit treatment because you would rather focus on the quality of your life rather than the length of your life.
Pain and treatment side effectsPain and treatment side effects. You may think you have to live with side effects or pain. But a palliative care doctor can often prescribe medicines to help with these. All types of treatment have pros and cons, but you can work with your doctor to find the right mix of medicines for you.
Emotional and social challenges. A palliative care team can help you and your loved ones talk about feelings and solve problems. Palliative care team members may talk to you about your feelings about living with a serious illness. They may help you work through stressful family situations. They might even be able to help you arrange transportation or find resources to help pay for medicines.
Spiritual concernsSpiritual concerns. It can be scary to think about living the rest of your life with a serious illness. You may be struggling with questions such as "Did I do something to deserve this illness?" or "Has my life been meaningful?" or "What is going to happen to me when I die?" Your palliative care team may include a chaplain or spiritual adviser who can help you talk through these kinds of questions.
Goals and dreamsGoals and dreams. Maybe you have always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon or be reunited with a long-lost sister. A palliative care team may be able to help you feel well enough to make these goals and dreams come true.
Hospice careHospice care. When you, your loved ones, or your doctors feel that you may have less than 6 to 12 months to live, you may want to think about hospice. This kind of care is given wherever you are, whether that is a nursing home, hospital, or your own home.
Advance directivesAdvance directives. You can fill out legal papers called advanced directives. These important papers tell your doctor about the kind of care you want at the end of your life. For example, you decide if you want doctors to use machines to keep your body alive when it can no longer do so by itself, and you can say how long you would be willing to live on these machines.
You may find it helpful to read personal stories about how palliative care has helped others.