What happens to me now that I’ve been referred to palliative care?
We begin by getting to know one another. At our first meeting, we discuss what matters most to you and your loved ones, including your personal values and treatment preferences. Then, we work together — you, your family, your doctor and your palliative care providers — to help you live well with your conditions and treatments.
Here are some questions we know people often have (but rarely ask).
Does referral to palliative care mean I’m dying?
No. Receiving palliative care does not mean you’re dying. In fact, recent research indicates that palliative care can help people live longer, by addressing pain and reducing stress. Being referred to palliative care does mean that you are dealing with difficult medical problems — ones that can cause pain, emotional uncertainty and personal complications for you and the people you love.
Do I need to stop medical treatments in order to receive palliative care?
No. We support doing whatever is right for you. Many of the patients we serve are receiving treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, cardiac procedures such as angiography or pacemakers, and surgery. You may choose to enroll in clinical trials that offer experimental approaches for your condition. If difficult decisions about treatments arise, we can help you sort through the options.
Will my insurance company cover palliative care?
Most insurers and health plans pay for medical components of palliative care. We are fortunate to have institutional support from Mayo Clinic Health System and private donations that enable us to provide interdisciplinary palliative care to people regardless of any insurance limitations or their ability to pay.
I’m so sick of being sick, and of the energy and time that health care takes from my everyday life. Do I really need to add palliative care to my long list of appointments?
If you are feeling that way, most likely the answer is yes. Feeling overwhelmed is a common challenge of illness and modern treatment. Palliative care services are designed to reduce, not add to, the stress, anxiety and energy-sapping effects of illness. Your appointments will fit your needs and be focused on what matters most to you at that very moment. Together, we can help ease the struggle and exhaustion of being sick.
I’m worried about my family and the toll my illness seems to be taking. Can you help them?
Yes. Your family helps make you who you are, and they play an important part in your health. We welcome the chance to meet and talk with your spouse, parents, siblings, children and others you love.
When people hear I’m about to receive palliative care, they assume it’s hospice … and that I’m dying. Are they right?
No. It’s a common misunderstanding. Palliative care grew from the great things that hospice has done for people facing the end of their lives. We learned that the positive experiences and exceptional care people receive as part of hospice actually make life worth living for many patients. The palliative care team at Mayo Clinic Health System brings similar services to people during the course of illness, allowing full and active living within the limitations caused by a medical condition.