Palliative Care vs Hospice Care

Palliative Care vs Hospice Care

Hospice Care - Hospice care focuses on a person’s last six months of life or less. When curative treatment is no longer an option, hospice professionals work to make the patient’s life as comfortable as possible. This means that hospice care includes palliative care, because the goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible for the time that’s left.

Palliative Care -  Unlike hospice, palliative care can be performed for non-terminal patients. It is in fact to help people live longer, happier lives. As mentioned above, palliative care is included within hospice care to keep hospice patients comfortable. However, for non-terminal patients, palliative care is about managing the symptoms and side-effects of life-limiting and chronic illness. Therefore, you can receive palliative care at the same time you receive treatment meant to cure your illness.

Someone can receive palliative care at any stage of an illness, whereas hospice care is only appropriate at an end-of-life stage. Consider illnesses like heart disease, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Payment methods

Hospice care is paid for in full by the Medicare Hospice Benefit and by Medicaid Hospice Benefit. Most insurances and the Veterans Administration also cover hospice services in full or with minimal co-pays. Many Hospice providers are committed to providing hospice and palliative care to anyone in the community who needs it and meets the qualifications, even if they are uninsured, underinsured or unable to pay.

Palliative care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurances if the patient meets criteria.

Where care is received

Hospice care is most often provided in a patient’s home setting – regardless of whether it’s a house, apartment, nursing home, assisted living facility or other setting. Some hospices offer inpatient services in hospitals, hospice facilities, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living facilities.

Palliative care is most often received in the home, apartment, or during a short-term hospital admission.

Care Location

Hospice care is a holistic care philosophy — not a place. If your loved one lives with you, independently at home, at a nursing home, or at a care facility, your loved one can receive the team-based, whole person-focused care of hospice no matter where they call home. Hospice also works closely with your loved one’s current physician, allowing your loved one to continue receiving care from the doctors with whom they already have a close relationship.

Palliative care can be received at home, palliative care is often administered in a hospital setting, outpatient clinic, or extended care facility that is associated with palliative care. Palliative care, like hospice, works with your loved one’s current physician in order to provide you with pain and symptom relief.

The Benefits of Palliative Care

Palliative care reduces high levels of suffering and distress among patients with serious illness, at any stage of the disease. Palliative care can be beneficial to patients who:

  • Are experiencing chronic, progressive pulmonary disorders and are undergoing pulmonary care
  • Have kidney (renal) disease, heart failure and progressive neurological conditions
  • Have cancer
  • Have recurrent infections
  • Have non-healing wounds/are receiving wound care
  • Have a history of recurrent hospitalizations
  • Have psychosocial, emotional or spiritual distress
  • Need coordination of care


24/7 availability

One of the most important things a hospice team does is make sure the patient and primary caregiver have access to professionals 24 hours a day. A nurse is on call 24/7 and a nurse can visit any time day or night.

Emotional support

  • When families are in the turmoil of providing care, planning ahead, and coping with daily challenges, social workers and counselors provide guidance and support.
  • A social worker can also provide assistance with end-of-life planning and with residential transitions if needed.
  • Further, volunteers offer a sympathetic ear and companionship to patients and their families.

Practical help

  • Hospice home health aides provide services such as bathing and dressing.
  • Volunteers can help with practical errands, such as doing grocery shopping and running errands. They also provide time off for friends and family members who are serving as caregivers.

Spiritual care

Spiritual issues are often front and center for a patient at the end of life.

Sometimes spiritual coordinators provide spiritual support to patients and their families – regardless of their religious background. If it’s desired, a chaplain can perform a memorial service as well.

A coordinated interdisciplinary team approach

  • A hospice team consists of professionals in multiple specialties.
  • The team consists of specialists such as doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice aides, volunteer coordinators, spiritual counselors, pharmacists and bereavement counselors. This interdisciplinary approach is widely considered to be one of the most important benefits of hospice care.
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