Palliative and Hospice Care: Navigating Choices

How To Start This Conversation

Too often, people with chronic conditions do not start palliative care or hospice care soon enough in order to take full advantage of the benefits of these services. They may not know what these services offer, or they may not know how to start this conversation with their health care provider.

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Starting a conversation with your healthcare provider about palliative or hospice care can be difficult. Dr. Jons shares why this is an important conversation to have and how to get the conversation started. These educational materials were developed in partnership with Embassy Healthcare.

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Supportive Care Options

It's never too early to think about supportive care for you and your loved ones. Your healthcare provider can help address any physical or emotional concerns and work with you to determine the type of supportive care that best fits your needs.

Regardless of the stage of diagnosis, your supportive care will always:

  • Focus on improving quality of life
  • Help alleviate symptoms such as pain and stress
  • Provide for you and your loved ones
At any stage of disease

Palliative Care

This type of supportive service provides specialized medical care for people living with a chronic or serious illness. Appropriate at any stage of the disease that you are at, from onset to advanced stage. Early delivery of palliative care reduces unnecessary hospital admissions and the use of health services.

Treatment focuses on:

  • Intent to cure and/or improve your condition
  • Managing symptoms
  • Your wishes and treatment goals
  • These services can be provided by a multi-disciplinary including palliative care specialist doctors and nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and spiritual advisers  
  • This care can be provided in the home, hospital, outpatient clinic, assisted living facility, nursing home, and palliative care center
  • Varies based on services needed and insurance coverage
  • Can start once you are diagnosed with your chronic condition
  • Varies depending on personal insurance and services that are recommended
  • Talk with your insurance provider for details on your coverage
  • If costs concern you, talk to a social worker from the palliative care team
  • Financial assistance may be available to cover some services

If there is no palliative care specialist where you are receiving care, visit getpalliativecare.org to find a specialist near you.

Advanced or end stage disease

Hospice Care

This type of supportive service provides comprehensive comfort care to the person who has reached the end-stage of their illness as well as providing support to the caregivers. Hospice care is not about giving up, it is about taking control and making choices that are right for you.

Treatment focuses on:

  • Providing comfort and relief for symptoms
  •  Revised order/wording to add more empathy. 
  • Shifting goals towards improving quality of life instead of curing illness
  • A care plan that considers your overall wellbeing. Not all medications will be stopped, especially those that help manage other medical issues.
  • A multidisciplinary team provides these services 
  • The team can consist of nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers 
  • Everyone works together with you and your caregivers to provide the medical, emotional, and spiritual support needed  
  • Hospice is an approach to care, not a place.  It can be offered in your home, a care center, hospital, assisted living facility, or sometimes there are hospice centers 
  • As long as you meet hospice criteria you can continue to receive hospice services   
  • Your health care provider will assist with determining if you meet the criteria needed to receive these services
  • Hospice may be covered by Medicare and other insurance companies  
  • Financial assistance may be available

Becky talks about what hospice meant to her family:

“We signed our mom onto hospice because we thought it was important to have these services in place, both for our mom and our family”

“We appreciated the practical information and experience of the hospice team.”

“The calm approach from hospice, the time they spent explaining this part of our mom’s journey, allowed me to be the daughter and not the caregiver burdened with all of the decisions.”

“The experience as a family member is invaluable.”

Read more about this on our EACH Breath Blog.

You can also contact the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at 1-800-658-8898 or visit nhpco.org to find a hospice program in your community.


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