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When should you be offered Palliative Care

When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a specialized form of medical care designed to provide relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness. It’s appropriate for people with a wide range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and ALS. 

Whether you or a loved one is newly diagnosed with a serious illness or is further along in the disease trajectory, palliative care can offer valuable support and management.

When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care?

Palliative care focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life by assessing and managing the physical symptoms caused by serious illness, such as pain and shortness of breath, as well as addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of patients with serious illness. 

Palliative care can be beneficial at any stage of a serious illness and while receiving disease-modifying treatments. It’s recommended that it be integrated into a patient’s care plan early in the illness trajectory to alleviate symptoms and enhance their overall quality of life. 

For example, it’s recommended that people who are newly diagnosed with advanced cancer receive a palliative care consultation within 8 weeks of their diagnosis.

What Can You Expect from Palliative Care?

Palliative care is provided by a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists and chaplains, who work together to provide personalized support based on your needs. 

Providers can work alongside your other doctors, including when you’re receiving curative treatments such as medications, therapies or surgery.

You can expect your palliative care team to:

  • Spend time talking and listening to you and your family about your illness, symptoms and concerns.
  • Assess and manage symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty eating or sleeping, memory loss or trouble breathing.
  • Discuss your goals of care and help you understand your illness, treatment options and benefits so that you can make choices with greater confidence.
  • Coordinate care among your different healthcare providers so you carry on with daily life with less stress and confusion.

How Do You Access Palliative Care?

If you or a loved one is experiencing serious illness symptoms that impact your daily activities or have questions about your treatment options, talk to your doctor or nurse about your interest in palliative care services

Once you request this care, your providers can help you navigate the process and connect you with a palliative care team in your area. Palliative Care Services may be offered in the hospital setting, the outpatient clinic setting or at home.  

If you have questions about insurance coverage for palliative care, consider talking to a social worker or financial consultant at the hospital or clinic where you’re being treated.

Stony Brook Medicine’s Palliative Care Service is dedicated to helping patients and their families navigate the complexities of serious illness. With a focus on holistic care, our specialized, interdisciplinary team, comprised of experts in medicine, nursing, social work, and pastoral care, tailors treatment plans to meet individual needs. Whether managing symptoms associated with cancer or other debilitating conditions, our service is available at all stages of illness, offering compassionate care from the onset of diagnosis. Learn more about our Palliative Care Service here.

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.