Doctors specializing in Hospice and Palliative care a play a critical and increasing role in helping patients and their families navigate the course of prolonged terminal illness. Not only are people living longer, but medical advances have resulted in people with potentially fatal illnesses living for months and years after diagnosis. Thus, grieving is prolonged, and the illness and death becomes a process rather than an event.
Lead physicians specializing in Hospice and Palliative Care are critical players on an interdisciplinary healthcare team dedicated to the education of patients and their families on chronic illness and its treatments.
Individual situations are always unique and although there are hypothetical guidelines, no one can predict or know when remissions will end, what the immediate and longer-range side effects of treatments will be, or how the course of the illness will progress. As the resources and coping and adaptability skills of individuals and their families vary, end-of-life discussions should be initiated by the families doctor, who is trained to consider the whole person within the context of his or her family system.
Specialized Physicians, certified in Hospice & Palliative Care, are in a unique position to take a lead in processing information and educating a patient and his or her family, serving as a care coordinator and informing the nurses and other health care staff about the bio-psychosocial issues affecting the patient’s adaptation and illness management.