What have you found to be the best way to initiate the conversation about hospice care and end of life issues with the family and patient?

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GabrielleGoldbergMD (Physician - Hospice / Palliative Care (Verified) ) - 03 / 26 / 2012

It is important that we have a common understanding of what hospice care is before answering this question. Hospice provides care for a patient who has a terminal diagnosis, with expectation of a prognosis of 6 months or less, and is usually no longer seeking curative treatment. Hospice focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting patients and is provided in the home, in a residential setting, or in the hospital. Another way of looking at it, is that hospice care provides palliative care for those approaching the last stages of life. I find that the best first step in addressing discussions about hospice with patients and families is to first understand what they know about their underlying diagnosis, their treatment options and how their illness is impacting their quality of life. I want to also understand what is most important to a patient and family when the prognosis is limited. Once I know what a patient and family hope to achieve and what is most important to them I can best help to guide treatment and make use of hospice services to help maximize their quality of life and help them to achieve their goals.
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