Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

An Explanation of Palliative Care and How it Affects You

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Fri, Mar 25, 2016


     Human life expectancy in the past 100 years has been substantially lengthened as a result of advances in medical science.  However, as we know, the quality of an extended life span isn’t always great.  Many people live with serious illnesses such as COPD, Heart Disease, Cancer, Parkinson’s Disease etc. for many years, often spending those years suffering extreme physical and emotional pain.

     While the medical community continues to focus on finding cures for these illnesses and conditions, an important part of administering medical care is easing a patient’s pain.  This is what is known as palliative care and only recently – within the last 10 years or so – has palliative care become a new discipline of medicine.

     What is palliative care?  It is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses.  It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.  The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family.

     Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists such as social workers and chaplains, who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide extra support.  Palliative care specialists undergo additional training and certification in order to provide palliative care services.

     Palliative care is often coupled with hospice care, however, they are not the same.  Hospice care is for patients who are terminally ill, and have an expected lifespan of less than six months.  Palliative care is available for any patient with a serious or advanced disease who needs the added support that it care can provide.

     Palliative care specialists can play an important role in helping patients and their families discuss and make important and difficult decisions about their medical care.  That could include evaluating the different treatment options presented to the patient, weighing the pros and cons of each.  They can also assist in focusing on the future, on what the patient may or may not want as his/her condition declines.

     The palliative care team can facilitate this discussion well ahead of an acute medical crisis.  Knowing what the patient wants or doesn’t want helps to reduce the stress level of all involved when that medical crisis does arrive.

     Navigating the waters of palliative care and hospice care can feel overwhelming.  Let us help you to make that trip easier with a Health Care Proxy and Living Will and a Release of Protected Health Information (HIPAA, commonly).

     Learning more about Estate Planning and Asset Protection can protect you now and in the future. Call us or register for one of our workshops today to make your life a little easier down the road.  

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Tags: long term care, Estate Planning, palliative, hospice

Massachusetts Elder Law Attorney | Palliative Care

Posted by Massachusetts Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney, Dennis B. Sullivan, Esq., CPA, LLM on Tue, Aug 07, 2012

Palliative care is basically the prevention and treatment of pain. It does not aim for a cure, per se; it aims, instead, for relief. And - although anyone suffering from any disease can receive palliative care - it's most often associated with hospice.palliative care

Hospice, of course, is different than hospital. People go to hospitals, generally, in search of a cure. People go to hospice when there's no hope of a cure, so they can die in a comfortable, homier atmosphere.

Palliative care, in a very real way, helps ease the process of dying... which, of course, is a part of life. It doesn't postpone death, by causing people to linger with untreatable illness. But it doesn't hasten it, either.

Palliative care in a hospice setting usually involves a team of specialists, ranging from doctors to clergy, to treat pain and its symptoms, and to provide a psychological or emotional approach when warranted. And it works; most families who experience the death of a loved one in hospice say it's better than passing away in a hospital.

Yet, many people don't take advantage of hospice - even though it's paid for by Medicare.

We often tend to think of a loved one's death as the worst thing that could happen. But I would suggest that there's one thing even worse - a loved one dying badly. What do we mean by "badly?"

According to Dr. Ira Byock, director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, dying badly is "Dying while suffering, dying connected to machines." Dr. Byock believes that, if we deny an imminent death, we can become delusional, and can start acting in ways that can actually harm our loved one.

These are very difficult questions. But we can help.

For more information, we encourage you to download our FREE "Consumer's Guide to Hospice Care", which reveals answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning Massachusetts hospice care.


At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families concerned with losing their homes and life savings to increasing medical and nursing home costs, taxes and the costs and time delays of probate. We also protect clients from losing control of their own health and financial decisions.

We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops to learn more about our process and what you can do to enhance the security of your spouse, home, life savings and legacy. To register for a seat at an upcoming workshop call (800) 964-4295 (24/7) or register online at

Tags: Medicare, Estate Planning, Elder Law, Wellesley, Health Care, elder care, palliative, palliative care, hospice

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