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 thinking about palliative care, and ask where palliative care is available in your area.
  • Ask your doctor to explain your illness and any past, current and future treatments and procedures.
  • Explain to your doctor 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 (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 which treatments you may or may not want.
  • Mention that you would like time to discuss future planning for your care. You should do this even if you’re well or it’s early in your illness.
  • If you have completed a living will or health care proxy, be sure to tell your doctor and provide him or her with a copy.
  • Finally, at any point in your illness if you are experiencing symptoms and stress, ask your doctor for the palliative care referral!