Five Things You Can Expect from Your First Palliative Care Meeting

August, 2016

If you are facing a serious illness and have asked for palliative care or were referred by your physician, you may be wondering what the first meeting will be like. Here are five things you can expect.

You will learn how the palliative care team can help

Rab Razzak, a palliative care doctor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says one of the first things he asks his patients is: “What do you know about palliative care?” If a patient is uncertain about what it is and what to expect, he takes the time to explain it.

“From the onset, it is important that patients have a clear understanding of who we are and how we can support them,” says Dr. Razzak. “It’s the first step in building an open and honest relationship.”

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on providing relief from the pain, symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The core palliative care team typically includes palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers.. This team approach is in place to offer you an extra layer of full, well-rounded support.

You will get to ask questions

Palliative care is a two-way relationship between you and your specialists. In every meeting, you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about palliative care, your illness and your treatment options. Here are some suggestions of what to ask in your initial meeting.

You will be at the center of your care

Palliative care is a patient-centered approach, which means that the team wants to hear your story. In addition to addressing your pain and other symptoms, they will give you the chance to discuss how the illness is affecting your life. If willing, you’ll also be able to talk about any fears or anxieties surrounding your illness, treatments or medications.

“Every person is different,” says Dr. Razzak. “Because of that, it is vital that we get to know who the patient is and what his or her values are so we can begin to discuss goals or decisions regarding treatment options or pain management plans.”

Your loved ones have seats at the table too

Your palliative care team welcomes your family members or anyone in your support system to each meeting. Your team can provide them emotional support, and can give them tools to help care for you. If you would like, they will also include them in the decision making.

Laura is the daughter of a patient who is receiving palliative care. Here she discusses the impact of meeting with the palliative care team.

All of your information will be explained

The palliative care team works in close partnership with your other doctors. Because of this, they can provide you a full understanding of your illness and your symptoms.

In this video, Amy, a woman who was diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory lung cancer and is currently living well thanks to palliative care, discusses the importance of having all of your information in one place.

The goal of the initial meeting is to eliminate any confusion surrounding your care. You and your team will explore your personal goals and needs. They want you and your loved ones to leave the meeting feeling both informed and empowered to take the next steps with confidence.