As we age, we may need different healthcare providers to care for our needs. It is important to have a primary care physician who understands your needs. But when one need’s palliative or hospice care, it is important to find a physician experienced in helping make medical decisions and coordinating this type of care.
There is a difference between palliative care and hospice care. Palliative care helps to relieve symptoms of a disease or medical condition, whether or not it can be cured. Hospital care is provided to those who likely have 6 months or less to live. Hospice is considered a type of palliative care.
A palliative physician will lead a team with special training in making the patient as comfortable as possible. This team typically includes:
- Other physicians
- Social workers
- Physical therapists
- Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs)
The palliative care physician will provide the following services:
- Leading the hospice or palliative care team
- Prescribing appropriate medicines to control pain and other symptoms
- Assisting with making difficult medical decisions
- Coordinating care with other doctors
- Creating a plan to address the patient’s wishes
- Providing emotional support and guidance
Finding palliative and hospice healthcare providers will require you to do some research. The first place to start is by talking to your primary care physician. He or she will make some recommendations based on your palliative or hospice care needs.
When looking for a provider, you should consider the following:
- Insurance coverage
- Quality of care
- Training and expertise
- Availability of services
Once you have a list of several potential providers, ask questions to learn more about their services and quality of care. Some questions you may ask include:
- How long has this provider been serving the community?
- What types of training has this provider had?
- How does this provider select and train his or her employees?
- Does this provider include the patient and family members in developing the plan of care?
- Does the provider provide written statements explaining all of the costs and payment plan options associated with home care?
- What procedures does this provider have in place to handle emergencies?