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Getting Started

Making a Plan to Live Well

In your first meeting with your palliative team, they will listen to your concerns, needs, and desires, in order to understand your wishes for care and living.

Everybody has different goals and wishes. One person might have a goal of achieving pain relief so she can comfortably attend her daughter’s swim meet; another might want to get his shortness of breath under control so he can get back on the golf course; a child might be determined to go to school without constantly feeling nauseated.

Your team will work with you and your loved ones to come up with a plan to give you control and help you live well, as you define it. They will also continually communicate with you to revise the plan as needed.

By understanding your goals and wishes, both you and the team will be able to better develop your treatment and care plan.

Questions the palliative doctor and other team members may ask include

  • How can we help you live well?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What activities or experiences would you like to do or continue doing so that you feel you are living well?
  • Are there any special events or activities that you are looking forward to?
  • What are your fears or worries about your illness or medical care?
  • What needs or services would you like to discuss?
  • What do you hope for your family and loved ones?
  • What keeps you going when life’s challenges seem overwhelming?
  • Do you have religious or spiritual needs that are important to you?
  • In what way do you feel you could make this time especially meaningful to you?
  • If you have to choose between living longer and living more comfortably or energetically, how would you approach this balance?

Developing Your Care Plan

Though you might have identified your goals and wishes for living well, you likely will have many complicated medical decisions to make. This can be confusing, frightening, and overwhelming, and you may worry about whether or not you are receiving the most beneficial or appropriate treatment. Palliative doctors can explain your options and guide you in making decisions by providing the big picture.

All treatments come with benefits and burdens. For example, a therapy may help control your illness but cause pain or difficulty eating. In some cases, the side effects of the treatment can be controlled easily. In other cases, the treatment may do more harm than good and significantly worsen your quality of life. The palliative doctor and care team can help you weigh the benefits and burdens so you can make a decision that’s right for you.

Palliative doctors are concerned about you as a whole person—not just the part of you that is sick. They also understand that there is not always one right or wrong answer and that your needs and wishes may change over time. Palliative doctors consider all of these things when working with you to develop a care plan.

Learn more about the more common treatments and methods for pain relief.