Advance care planning involves talking now about the future and the setting where someone has deteriorating health and is not able to converse with clinicians about patients’ wishes, preferences, fears, expectations of what is going on, and their hopes. At this juncture, there can be a discussion about a patient’s quality of life and what he or she would like it to be. Sometimes, patient preferences can be put into advance directives (e.g., a living will or a medical power-of-attorney). Some barriers to advance care planning were described. Examples of patient barriers are procrastination, apathy, and fear of burdening the family. Some provider barriers are a lack of desire in talking about a negative future outcome and not wanting to burden patients and families by discussing this topic. Two other big considerations are time constraints on the part of providers and a general lack of knowledge about advance directives. It is important to be able to offer some sort of direction to families regarding possible health care outcomes even when there is a lot of uncertainty. End-of-life care can make some individuals nervous, which is understandable. Withholding or withdrawing interventions that are not in line with patient goals is OK. We do not want to cause any harm or do inappropriate things. As long as we are eliciting what is important to families and doing what meets their goals, generally speaking, we are doing the right thing.
Although cancer is the second lead cause of death in the U.S., the rate has been falling. It is becoming more of a chronic disease and has a treatment paradigm that is different from the past. Cancer also is the second most common cause of disability claims. Breast and prostate cancer have a heightened incidence of disabling complications, which is relevant because it is a potential interplay area of palliative care and rehabilitation. Fewer patients are dying in hospitals while the home and hospice settings are on a little upswing. He mentioned common symptoms (e.g., pain and shortness of breath) at end-of-life that differentiate patients with cancer from those who do not have it. The ultimate goal of palliative care and rehabilitation is to improve quality of life. Palliative medicine is one component of the bigger group of palliative care interventions. Regarding hospice care, someone may or may not be eligible for hospice services because of the insurance situation, but everybody is eligible for good end-of-life care and that is what can be provided regardless of insurance status. He then discussed what rehabilitation entails. One main focus is pain management. He indicated ways in which rehabilitation and palliative care can be provided together effectively in four domains, e.g., caregiver support.