Breaking Bad News

When discussing the option of hospice care, healthcare providers should be careful not to convey a sense of abandonment to their parents. Sometimes, as healthcare professionals, you see your role as only curing or treating diseases and you may unintentionally convey a sense of failure to your patients if curative treatments are unsuccessful. Often times when recommending cessation of curative care, patients feel a sense of failure and disappointment in their ability to “get better,” or worse, that they have disappointed you, the provider, by not “getting better.” The shift from curative care to hospice care is merely a change in the type of care and should never be conveyed as a failure on the part of the patient or the healthcare professional. Some alternative prases to commonly misconstrued statements are offered below.

Provider phrase: “There’s nothing we can do for you.”

Alternative phrase: “We can offer many options to control your symptoms and help you feel better.”

Provider phrase: “It’s time to think about the withdrawal of care.”

Alternative phrase: “Do you think that it is time to consider a different type of treatment that focuses more on your symptoms? I’ll be here with you no matter what you decide.

Provider phrase: “Do you want us to do everything that we can to keep you alive such as artificial life support?”

Alternative phrase: “If you become extremely ill, would you want to be put on artificial life support, or would you prefer a natural death?”

Provider phrase: “You’ve failed the treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation).”

Alternative phrase: “Cancer has not responded to the treatment as we had hoped. How are you doing?“

Provider phrase: “I think you should consider hospice.”

Alternative phrase: “I want to provide coordinated care with a team of professionals who can treat your symptoms and help you stay comfortable.”

Altus Hospice professionals are available for patient and family consultations at any time. There is absolutely no obligation or charge to the patient. Hospice care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance carriers.

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