Palliative Care FAQs
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about palliative care.
What is Palliative Care?
If you have a serious illness, palliative care can provide relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress —whatever your diagnosis. Our team of doctors, nurses, and specialists work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support and improve your quality of life. We can help at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, along with your ongoing medical treatment.
We offer palliative care if you are suffering from serious and chronic illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
We can help lessen symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and depression. We also help you gain the strength to carry on with daily life and tolerate medical treatments. And we can give you more control over your care by improving communication so that you can better understand your choices for treatment.
A Partnership of Patient, Specialists, and Family
We take a team approach to providing palliative care. Your core team will include a doctor, nurse, and social worker, all of whom specialize in palliative care. Massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, chaplains, and others may also be part of the team.
We will spend as much time as necessary with you and your family, partnering with you, your family, and your other doctors. We support you and your family every step of the way, not only by controlling your symptoms, but also by helping you to understand your treatment options and goals. Working together with your primary doctor, our palliative care team provides:
- Close communication
- Expert management of pain and other symptoms
- Help navigating the health care system
- Guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices
- Emotional and spiritual support for you and your family
How do I know if palliative care is right for me?
Palliative care may be right for you if you are experiencing 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 disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness, and we can provide it alongside treatment meant to cure you. It has been proved to improve quality of life, extend life in the setting of cancer, and reduce health care costs by aligning treatment options with patients’ goals.
What does palliative care do?
Our palliative care team provides several types of assistance:
Pain and symptom control: We identify your sources of pain and discomfort, such as problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, or bowel or bladder difficulties. Then we provide treatments that can offer relief, including medication, massage therapy, and relaxation techniques.
Communication and coordination: We place great importance on communication among you, your family and caregivers, and your team of health care professionals. We do our best to ensure that all your needs are fully met. We help establish your goals for care, assist with decision-making, and aid in coordination of care.
Emotional support: We focus on you, the entire person, not just your illness. We will address any social, psychological, emotional, or spiritual needs that you or your family may have.
Family/caregiver support: Caregivers bear a great deal of stress too, so we are there for them as well. It can ease your mind to know that your loved ones have support and can help you with your decision making.
What can I expect?
With help from our palliative care team, you can expect to have more control over your care and a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that reduces anxiety and stress. We review your plan of care every day and discuss it with you to make sure your needs and wishes are being met and that your treatments are in line with your goals. You can also 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 and makes it easier for you to go through medical treatments. We also help you better understand your condition and your choices for medical care. In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life with palliative care.
Will my insurance cover palliative care?
Most insurance plans cover all or part of the palliative care treatment you receive, just as with other hospital and medical services. This is also true for Medicare and Medicaid. If costs concern you, a social worker from your palliative care team can talk to you about payment options.
Do I have to give up my own doctor?
You continue to see your primary doctor, who directs your care and plays an active role in your treatment. Our palliative care team provides an extra layer of support and works in partnership with, not in place of, your primary doctor.
Can I have curative treatment together with palliative care?
Absolutely. You can have palliative care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you. In fact, palliative care has offers better outcomes then curative care on its own.
Who else, besides the patient, can benefit?
You and your family and 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.
Who will provide my palliative care?
At Mount Sinai, we have an elite team of palliative care specialists including doctors, nurses, social workers, a chaplain, massage therapists, bedside yoga instructors, creative art therapists, and doulas who provide palliative care.
Can I get palliative care if I am at home?
Yes. Before you are discharged from the hospital, you, your doctor, and your palliative care team will talk to you about palliative care options that are best for your needs and goals.
What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?
Palliative care is appropriate for anyone with a serious illness. You can receive palliative care at any age, stage, and prognosis of an illness and you can have it along with curative treatment. Hospice is an important Medicare benefit for terminally ill patients who only have months to live. People who receive hospice are also no longer receiving curative treatment for their underlying disease.