Advance Care Planning
When patients have conversations with their loved ones and health care team about their wishes, they’re taking an important step. In the event of a serious illness or injury, this communication will guide us in providing treatment that respects their values and preferences. However, fewer than one-third of physicians report having any formal training in communication about goals of care and advance care planning with their patients, and nearly half report that they are unsure about what to say. Read the study
Start by asking patients what matters to them through the end of their life. This question can help them (and you as a medical provider) start this important conversation. Together as a team, you can help them participate in shared decision-making about tests, treatments, and care plans based on good medicine and the patient’s values and preferences. This is the basis of advance care planning.
How You and Your Patients Can Have This Important Conversation
Goals of Care Conversations and What Matters to Your Patient
Discussing goals of care and advance care planning can be a challenge. Atlantic Health System presents this instructional video for health care providers, which covers how to start a conversation about goals of care, strategies for engaging with patients and their loved ones, and how best to manage other care considerations.
Document Goals of Care for Patients
The role of a Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, or POLST, is an important one, as it can ensure appropriate medical treatment that is aligned with patient preferences for those who have a limited life expectancy. This video from Atlantic Health System summarizes for health care providers what a POLST is, why it is important, and its role in end-of-life care.
A Conversation about Palliative Care
Understanding palliative care is an important part of treating patients living with a serious illness. This video, developed by Atlantic Health System, summarizes key considerations around what palliative care is, how to integrate primary palliative care into your practice and when to refer for specialized care, and tips for physicians on how to talk with patients and their loved ones about palliative care.
This powerful video illustrates the importance of advance care planning, and highlights the impact it has on patient, family members, caregivers, and health care providers.
As a primary care provider you already follow many of the core principles of palliative care. Specialized community-based palliative care practices are key to providing that additional layer of support with complex cases and challenging symptom management.
While caring for patients who are living with serious illness, many complex physical and psychosocial, symptoms may need to be addressed. Palliative care is there working with you to maximize the quality of life for your patients and their loved ones through the entire trajectory of their illness.
Asking patients what matters to them through the end of their life starts an important conversation about their values and preferences. If a serious illness or injury occurs, this communication helps your health care team provide treatment that respects the individual’s wishes.
Health care professionals from participating long-term care facilities can access palliative care resources through the Community Palliative Care Collaborative portal.
Learn more about palliative care by reading answers to questions others have asked.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if palliative care is right for me?
Palliative care may be right for you if you have a serious illness. Serious illnesses include but are not limited to: cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and many more. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness. You can also have this type of care at the same time as you have other treatments for your condition.
If you’re not sure, Take the quiz .
What does the palliative care team do?
Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. It is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. The goal is to improve your quality of life.
To do this, the palliative care team will:
- Relieve your symptoms and distress
- Help you better understand your disease and diagnosis
- Help clarify your treatment goals and options
- Understand and support your ability to cope with your illness
- Assist you with making medical decision
- Coordinate with your other doctors
What can I expect from palliative care?
In short, you can expect that your quality of life will be improved. You will have relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. You can also expect close communication and more control over your care. Palliative care will help you carry on with daily life. It will improve your ability to go through medical treatments. And it will help you to match your goals to your treatment choices.
Will my insurance cover palliative care?
Most insurance plans cover all or part of palliative care, just as with other hospital and medical services. This is also true of Medicare and Medicaid. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you with payment options.
Do I have to give up my own doctor?
No. The palliative care team provides an extra layer of support and works in partnership with your primary doctor.
Can I have curative treatment together with palliative care?
Yes, absolutely. Your treatment choices are up to you. You can have palliative care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.
Who else, besides the patient, can benefit?
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 your needs by providing care and treatment that reduces your suffering and improves your quality of life.
Where do I get palliative care?
Palliative care is available in a number of places. More and more, palliative care is available outside of the hospital in the places where you live. You, your doctor and the palliative care team can discuss outpatient palliative care or palliative care at home. Some hospitals also offer outpatient palliative care even if you have not been in the hospital. Check with your doctor. These include hospitals, outpatient clinics and at home.
Who provides palliative care?
How does palliative care help me choose the best treatment option?
When should I ask for palliative care?
Recent cancer guidelines say that cancer patients should receive palliative care early and together with their other treatments. People who are newly diagnosed with advanced cancer should receive a palliative care consult within eight weeks of their diagnosis. Read the guidelines