General FAQs

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What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illness.  It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness - whatever the diagnosis.  

The goal of Palliative care is to prevent or treat the symptoms and side effects of an illness and/or disease; it can be part of a treatment plan from the first day a serious illness is diagnosed.  

Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.  It is appropriate at any age and at any stage of a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatments.  

Palliative Care focuses on relieving the suffering caused by many serious illnesses including but not limited to cancer, cardiac disease such as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Kidney failure, Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  Palliative Care focuses on relieving the symptoms often associated with these diseases, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.  In addition, Palliative care helps patients gain control over their care by empowering them with a better understanding of the choices available for treatment options.  

Palliative care may actually help patients recover quicker from their illness by relieving symptoms as they undergo difficult medical treatments or procedures, such as surgery or chemotherapy. 

How are Palliative Care services provided?

Palliative Care uses a Team approach. The team, is headed by a Palliative Certified Medical Director and includes the following professionals:

• Palliative Physician

• Nurse Practitioner

• Nurses

• Social workers

• Other specialized professionals

Our Palliative professionals work with a patient’s physician to provide an extra layer of support. Our clinical providers come to the patient's place of residence, whether this is a private home, skilled nursing facility, assisted living or other residential living facility. Our Palliative Provider will conduct a thorough evaluation, focusing on the patient's current health conditions and symptoms. Interventions will be reviewed and agreed upon following a discussion of short and long-term goals of care and focusing on what matters most to the patient and their family.

What does Palliative Care involve?

Pain and symptom relief:  The Palliative care team identifies the patient’s source of pain and discomfort.  These may include problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, or bowel or bladder.  The team will suggest treatments that can offer relief. 

Communication and coordination:  Palliative care teams are extremely good communicators.  They put great emphasis on enhancing communication between the patient and family as well as the primary care doctor to assure that the patient’s needs are fully met. 

Emotional support:  Palliative Care focuses on the entire person, not just his or her illness.  The team members who care for the patient address social, psychological, emotional and spiritual concerns.

Family/caregiver support:  Caregivers bear a great deal of stress too, so the Palliative care team also supports them.  This focused attention helps ease some of the strain and can help with decision-making while providing additional resources and options for caregiving.  

Who pays for Palliative Care?

Most Insurance Companies have coverage for palliative consults; they are considered physician specialist visits.  We will assist you in verifying coverage by your insurance plan and obtaining any required authorization.

Medicare provides for palliative care consults through your Part B coverage. 

Private Pay:  If your current insurance plan does not provide coverage for Palliative services or will not otherwise authorize our services (we are always available to ask for you), we offer our services on a private pay basis.  We would be glad to provide you with our fee schedule.  

What can I expect with Palliative Care?

Control over your care in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that reduces anxiety and stress.  Your specialized plan of care is reviewed by the Palliative care team and discussed with you to assure your needs and wishes are being met.

You can 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 daily life while improving your ability to tolerate medical treatments.  

Does treatment meant to cure me stop when Palliative Care begins?

No.  You can receive Palliative care at any stage of illness, no matter what your diagnosis, prognosis or treatment plan. 

What role does my primary doctor play?

Your Primary doctor continues to direct your care and plays an active part in your treatment.  The Palliative care team provides additional support and works in partnership with your Primary doctor. 

Is Palliative Care the same as Hospice Care?

No. Hospice care provides palliative care for those approaching the last stages of life.  Hospice is for a patient who has a terminal prognosis and is no longer seeking curative treatment.  It focuses on relieving symptoms and providing support during the last months of life.

Palliative care is appropriate for anyone, at any point in a serious illness.  It can be provided at the same time curative care is being provided. 

The overall goal of Palliative care is to improve quality of life for you and your family while you are ill.  Research shows that people often live longer and do better when they receive Palliative care along with other treatments focused on treating their illness.

How do I start getting Palliative Care?

Ask for it!  Start by talking with your doctor or nurse.  Tell your family, friends and caregivers that you want Palliative care.  Then ask your doctor for a referral or call us at (858) 458-2993 and we will be delighted to assist you in arranging a palliative care consult from one of our experts.