Palliative care consultative services are becoming more common in hospitals and clinics. Patients and families may have negative perceptions of palliative care; they may view a discussion about palliative care as a signal that the physician is “giving up on the patient." Attending physicians may fear that suggesting a consultation to the patient and family could provoke anxiety, anger, or a sense of hopelessness.
It is helpful to keep these points in mind:
Assistance from the palliative care team may be useful in several ways, including:
- assessment and management of pain and symptoms;
- making difficult decisions, especially about continued use or withdrawal of potentially life-prolonging treatments;
- planning for the most appropriate care setting;
- providing psychological support to patients, families, and the health care team.
Discussion with the palliative care team should include the reason(s) for consultation, the patient’s history, the family structure, the goals for the consultation (including the goals of both the family and the patient), and concerns about using the term palliative care with the patient or family.
A palliative care consultation can engage the patient and family in a discussion of the patient's current medical condition and the goals of care.
A palliative care consultation can allay fears of abandonment, emphasize the continuing involvement of the attending physician, and describe the positive aspects of palliative care.
See reference for more information.
Adapted from Arnold R and Weissman DE. Broaching the topic of a palliative care consultation with patients and families. Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin. Fast facts and concepts #42. Internet. Accessed on May 24, 2018.