Despite the many benefits of palliative care, patients may not understand how it can help them. They may confuse palliative care with hospice care or end-of-life care, or have other misconceptions or concerns, making them hesitant or scared to learn about it.
The rollercoaster ride of serious illness — including the return or worsening of a disease or symptoms — can also leave patients overwhelmed and deflated. The complexities of juggling numerous appointments, healthcare providers, medicines, and care instructions can take over their life and their caregiver’s.
The collaborative nature of palliative care gives people back their power and their dignity. When discussing this specialized care with qualifying patients, it's important to emphasize that they are in the driver's seat. Ask patients and caregivers about their goals, values, and care preferences. Encourage open communication and shared decision-making and revisit care plan discussions as the illness changes or advances.
To help encourage patients with serious illnesses or complex conditions to consider palliative care, you can:
- Initiate the conversation when they are first diagnosed with their illness — According to the National Institute on Aging , the best time for patients to start this kind of care is right after they are diagnosed.
- Approach conversations with empathy — Patients can often feel overwhelmed and worried about what the future holds, so it's important to let them know that you're aware of how they feel and the emotions they may be going through.
- Address their concerns — You can help clear up misconceptions and misinformation. Remind them that they can continue to receive care and even curative treatment, and that palliative care doesn't mean end-of-life care.
- Reassure them that you are still there for them —Let patients know that you will still be a collaborative member on their treatment and care journey.