Palliative Care is a relatively new specialty of medicine that focuses on helping people with serious illnesses improve quality of life by assisting with pain and symptom management, facilitating conversation about their goals and values, and providing emotional support. Palliative Care is different from hospice in that Palliative Care providers ideally get involved early in the disease process and can help focus on quality of life and communication even if the disease is stable or improving. They are involved throughout the duration of treatment as we hope to see patients get better, and can help guide decisions if cure is not possible.
In some hospital systems, the Palliative Care team is referred to as Supportive Care Medicine. If you believe that you or a loved one could benefit from this type of care, ask any of your treating physicians if your health system has a Palliative Care or Supportive Care Medicine team to which they could refer you.
The majority of Americans do not have an advance directive or living will. These documents are very important and help to communicate your wishes to your health care team and your loved ones if you are ever in a position where you cannot speak for yourself.
I encourage you not to put this off until "later". Think of it as a gift to your loved ones that brings much clarity, peace, and reassurance should they ever have to make difficult decisions on your behalf.
Here are a few resources that may be helpful:
Where can I find a free advance health care directive?
(please share a copy with your health care team)
What does DNR mean?
What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?