Step 1: Talk to Your Doctor

The first step is to talk to your own doctor. Most of the time, you have to ask your doctor for a palliative care referral to get palliative care services. Whether you are in the hospital or at home, a palliative care team can help you. Following are some tips to help you talk to your doctor:

  • Tell your doctor you are considering palliative care and ask what palliative services are available in your area.
  • Ask your doctor to explain your illness as well as past, current, and future treatments and procedures.
  • Explain to your doctor what quality of life means to you. This list may include being able to spend time with loved ones, having pain and other distressing symptoms aggressively treated, the ability to make your own decisions for care and your preferred location of treatments (home vs. in the hospital).
  • Be sure your doctor is aware of any personal, religious, or cultural beliefs, values, or practices that are important to consider in your care and treatment decisions.
  • Tell your doctor what curative treatments you may or may not want, such as resuscitation if your heart were to stop, being placed on a mechanical ventilator if your lungs were to fail, undergoing dialysis if your kidneys were to fail, and artificial nutrition by a feeding tube if you were unable to eat.
  • If you have completed a living will or health care proxy, be sure to inform your doctor and provide him or her with a copy.
  • If you are suffering with pain and other symptoms due to a serious illness, ask your doctor for a palliative care referral.