Communication is critical 

Being able to talk to patients and families is a crucial part of planning care for a person with palliative care needs. Discussions about advance care planning will be needed if this has not already been undertaken.

Understanding the patient's preferences will help identify options and choices. This will inform planning for a home death if that is the patient's wish.

Useful tip

Most patients expect their doctor will raise palliative care issues when needed. Find an opening statement you are comfortable using.

Key points for communication

Being able to openly discuss changes in care and talk comfortably about end-of-life issues is important. Patients respect and value this part of a GP’s role.

Plan ahead for discussions about palliative care when possible. Several strategies can help:

  • Clinical practice guidelines (187kb pdf) on communicating prognosis and discussing end-of-life issues are available. They provide examples of opening questions and useful phrases for these conversations
  • Find questions or phrases you are comfortable using to initiate and continue conversations about palliative care. Communication Starters (122kb pdf) provides a range of options.
  • When organising an appointment where prognostic information many be communicated, check if the patient wants someone to be there with them.

Watch the Ten Steps for What to Say and Do video presented by Dr Dian E Meir, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) (US).

Last updated 24 August 2021