Questions to ask your palliative care doctor

Questions to ask your palliative care doctor

Take a look at this list of questions to ask your palliative care doctor so you feel informed and empowered during your illness.

When you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, it’s common to have a mixture of many emotions – fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, guilt. But also, if you have had symptoms for a long time or have undergone many tests, finally “knowing the answer” may in some ways be a relief.

It’s also common to have lots of questions. Communication between you and your care team about decision-making during your illness is very important so ask questions, take more control, and begin to actively plan this part of your life, for you and your loved ones. Below are some questions that can help you discuss your diagnosis, treatment and palliative care needs with your palliative care doctor.

The benefits and limitations
Ask your palliative care doctor to explain what is included in palliative care that’s different from the care you can get from your oncologist and GP. You need to understand the difference so you can get the most out of each relationship, and feel empowered along your journey. You’ll also want to ask who will be in the palliative care team, and why, and how they will communicate with each other and with the other involved healthcare professionals.

Treatment pros and cons
Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of different treatment options, and which ones might be best for you. The palliative care team will also spend some time talking to you, and lots of time listening to you. They will make sure you completely understand all of your treatment options and choices. By exploring your personal goals, the palliative care team will help you match those goals to the options. They will also ensure that all of your doctors are coordinated, and know and understand what you want. This gives you more control over your care.

Keep your family on board
Talk to your family about your preferences for care at the end of life, especially should you not be able to speak for yourself one day. Your palliative care doctor can assist you with having these discussions. Ensure that both your doctor and your loved ones know exactly what quality of life means to you. This list may include: being able to spend time with loved ones; relief from any pain and other symptoms; having the ability to make your own decisions for care and where you want to be treated (at home vs. in hospital). These preferences should be documented and discussed with your doctor. Read more about an advance care plan in this section.

Where to receive palliative care
Your palliative care doctor can help you consider the number of care options available to you, depending on your preferences and medical needs:
> Staying at home while being supported by your doctor and palliative care team
> Getting assistance from your local hospice for ongoing palliative care services – it’s not just a place “to go to die”
> Being admitted to hospital or to a sub-acute care facility

Always let your palliative care team know how you are feeling, physically and emotionally – they are equipped to deal holistically with all aspects of your care.

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