Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Palliative Care?

“Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.” – World Health Organization (WHO).

Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s Palliative Care Service takes a multidisciplinary team approach that focuses on comfort care and tries to relieve a patient’s physical and psychological distress. A service for those with advanced, life-threatening or serious chronic illness, palliative care aims to relieve suffering, provide support, and improve the quality of life for patients and their loved ones.

Palliative care is offered in conjunction with all other appropriate forms of medical treatment. Pain management and symptom control are incorporated into all stages of treatment.

Who can be seen by the Palliative Care Service?

Upon referral by their primary care or treating physician, any individual with a serious illness or group of illnesses, such as cancer, heart, liver or kidney disease or failure, HIV, emphysema and Alzheimer’s disease may be seen. Patients affected by debilitating injury as the result of catastrophic events may also be seen.

When does the Palliative Care team visit a patient?

Once Lahey’s Palliative Care Service receives a referral, a consult physician or nurse practitioner specializing in palliative medicine will visit and assess any needs, usually within 24 to 48 hours. A social worker, case manager, chaplain, nutritionist, rehabilitation medicine specialist, dietitian, psychiatrist, psychologist or other team member may also visit the patient depending on their needs. Formal family meetings are often held with team members and medical staff to discuss goals and provide additional support.

Does the Palliative Care Service extend beyond hospitalization?

Yes. Lahey’s Palliative Care Service extends beyond the hospital setting to include care provided in the home or other locations, such as skilled nursing facilities or rehabilitation centers. This care may include visits by clinicians from home, or outside health, agencies. Many patients return home after receiving palliative care.

One important area of palliative care is hospice. Lahey’s Palliative Care Service works closely with hospice houses and local home hospice services to ensure excellent ongoing care and support.

Helpful questions you may want to ask your physician about your specific care
  • Do I really need palliative care, or can my regular doctor treat me for everything?
  • What kind of help is available for my family to help take care of me?
  • What is hospice care, and how do I get it? How is it different from palliative care?
  • What does the term 'comfort care' mean?
  • What is an advance directive? Living will? Power of attorney? Do I need any of these?