Palliative Care Frequently Asked Questions
My doctor referred me to Palliative Care. Is this the doctor’s way of getting rid of me as a patient?
Absolutely not! The Palliative Care team provides an extra layer of support and works in partnership with your primary doctor (and your other doctors). Your primary doctor will continue to direct your care and play an active role in your treatment. The Palliative Care team provides symptom management, extra time for communication about goals and treatment options, and help with navigating the health system.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care is focused on the unique physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of patients living with serious or life-threatening illness. Palliative Care provides patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, loss of function, and stress caused by serious illnesses.
Palliative Care can provide relief for patients with:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Lung disease
- Neurologic conditions (ALS, MS, stroke)
- Any serious illness, whether it’s curable, chronic, or life-threatening
The goal of Palliative Care is to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative Care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to help provide comprehensive care. It’s appropriate for adult patients at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
What types of services does Palliative Care provide?
- Pain and symptom control: Our Palliative Care team will help identify your sources of pain and discomfort. These may include problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, bowel, or bladder. The team will offer treatments that can provide relief, such as medication, along with relaxation techniques.
- Communication and coordination: Our team members strive to be good communicators. We place high importance on communication between you, your family and caregivers, and your personal team of healthcare professionals so all your needs are understood and met. We’ll help you verbalize your goals of care, facilitate decision making, and assist in the coordination of care.
- Emotional support: Palliative Care focuses on the entire person, never just the illness. The team members caring for you will focus on any social, psychological, emotional, or spiritual needs you may have.
- Family/caregiver support: Caregivers shoulder a great deal of stress, too, so our Palliative Care team supports them, as well. This focused attention helps ease some of the strain and can help you with decision making.
When should Palliative Care be considered?
Advanced or complex diseases come with challenging symptoms that can negatively impact your ability to heal and enjoy life. Palliative Care is provided hand in hand with continued care to help with symptom control and with communication regarding options for your plan of care. It focuses on reducing the effect of physical issues on emotional well-being and improving comfort and quality of life for patients and their families.
Palliative Care isn’t the same as hospice. Palliative Care can be provided at any stage of illness, even if a cure is likely. Conversely, hospice care is a type of Palliative Care that provides services for patients who are at the end stages of an illness with a life expectancy of six months or less. However, hospice care can extend past a six-month prognosis provided the patient continues to meet hospice eligibility.
Under what circumstances is Palliative Care offered?
Your doctor may request a Palliative Care consultation for you to help with:
- Treatments to relieve symptoms: Palliative Care is here to help you feel better with expert treatment for relief of pain and other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and decreased appetite.
- Emotional and spiritual support for the patient and family: Living with a serious illness can be scary, isolating, and stressful for everyone touched by it. Palliative Care promotes communication and support to one another throughout an illness.
- Guidance on medical information and treatment options: Information regarding illness and treatment options can be overwhelming and confusing. Palliative Care can help coordinate health information and care providers in a way that helps patients and their families identify and reach their personal goals for care.
What does Palliative Care do for patients and their families?
For patients, Palliative Care helps you carry on with daily life. It improves your ability to go through medical treatments. It helps you better understand your condition and your choices for medical care.
For families and caregivers, we provide a number of suggestions and community resources to help you.
Can I refer myself or loved one to Kelsey-Seybold’s Palliative Care or must my doctor make a referral?
Yes, you can self-refer by calling the Kelsey-Seybold Palliative Care team to schedule a consultation at 713-442-1800.
Is Palliative Care covered by insurance?
Most insurance plans cover all or part of the Palliative Care treatment you receive, just as with other hospital and medical services. This includes Medicare and Medicaid.
Does Palliative Care replace my doctor?
No, we work with our patients’ regular physicians. If patients are receiving home health, hospital, or nursing home care, we can work closely with those staff members to provide patients with the best care possible in a coordinated manner.
Besides patients, who else benefits from Palliative Care?
Everyone involved benefits from Palliative Care. Patients and family caregivers are the special focus of Palliative Care. Doctors and nurses benefit, too, because they know they’re meeting patient needs by providing care and treatment that reduces suffering and improves quality of life.
How can I get Palliative Care?
Ask your doctor to refer you to Palliative Care or self-refer by calling 713-442-1800 and asking to schedule a consultation.
Who should I expect to interact with on the Palliative Care team?
A team of Palliative Care specialists, including doctors and nurses, provide this type of care. Our team will spend time talking and listening to you and your family. We’ll ensure you completely understand all your treatment options and choices. By delving into your personal goals, we’ll help you match those goals to the options. Our team will also make sure all your doctors are coordinated and know and understand what you want. This gives you more control over your care.
How does Palliative Care differ from regular care?
Palliative Care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. Think of it as an extension of regular medical care. Palliative Care provides an extra layer of support. We focus on the whole person in facets of their daily life and actively work with patients to ensure the care they receive is in accordance with their values and wishes. Our emphasis is on maximizing symptom control, improving quality of life, and supporting patients and family. While we don’t discourage medical interventions, one of the important principles of Palliative Care is determining whether there is practical benefit to a particular medical intervention and taking a conservative approach to ordering imaging or other testing if it isn’t actively benefiting the patient or changing the treatment plan.
Is this hospice care?
No. Palliative Care is for anyone with a serious illness. You can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, and you can have it along with curative treatment, meaning it isn’t dependent on prognosis. Hospice, on the other hand, is an important Medicare benefit that provides Palliative Care for terminally ill patients who may have only months to live. Unlike Palliative Care, people who receive hospice are also no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease. Palliative Care is a bridge to hospice for many patients, but it’s also true that many patients who are cared for with Palliative Care may never need hospice.