Hospice Care vs Palliative Care: Their Notable DifferencesSkip to content

Differences between Hospice Care and Palliative Care

Published: Dec 29, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 6, 2023.

When it comes to caring for a loved one nearing the end of their life, most people are unaware of the differences between hospice care and palliative care. Many use the terms interchangeably when they actually refer to two very different types of care.

Hospice care is focused on providing comfort to those who are dying, while palliative care is aimed at providing relief from symptoms for anyone with a serious illness, regardless of their prognosis.

If you are caring for someone who is terminally ill, it is important to understand the differences between hospice and palliative care in order to make the best possible decision about their care. Here are the most important differences between the two.

Who Is It For?

Hospice Care

Hospice care is a type of care designed to offer support and comfort to those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a limited time left to live. Rather than attempting to cure the condition, the goal of this type of care is to alleviate suffering and improve the patient's quality of life.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is designed for people who are suffering from a serious illness, no matter their age or diagnosis. It can be provided to patients who are experiencing advanced stages of chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, or lung disease. The goal of this type of care is to provide symptom relief and improve overall quality of life, while also potentially being used in conjunction with curative treatment options.

Kinds of Care Provided

Hospice Care

While hospice care shares some similarities with other types of medical care, the primary focus isn't to find a cure for the underlying disease. Instead, the goal is to make the most of whatever time remains and support people in enjoying the highest quality of life possible. Hospice care facilities offer services such as:

Access to Pain Medications

Hospice care provides access to adequate pain management and control of other symptoms throughout the entire course of the illness. Though patients in hospice care are given medications, the main focus is on making sure that the patient is comfortable and free from pain.

Psychosocial and Spiritual Support

Hospice care also provides psychosocial and spiritual support for both patients and their families. This type of care helps patients maintain a sense of dignity, independence, self-worth, and meaning in life, while providing emotional and spiritual support for both the patient and their loved ones.

Family Support

Hospice care programs recognize that illness affects the entire family, not just the patient. Therefore, hospice services are tailored to meet the needs of the whole family unit and provide them with emotional, spiritual, and practical support. This includes providing bereavement counseling for anyone who needs it.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is a type of medical care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family.

One key aspect of palliative care is helping the patient and their family deal with the emotional effects of a serious illness. Palliative care can include a wide range of services, such as:

Management and Symptom Control

One of the key services provided by palliative care teams is pain management and symptom control. This can include prescribing medications to alleviate pain and other symptoms, such as nausea and shortness of breath. The goal of this type of care is to help older adults with serious illnesses maintain the highest possible quality of life, even as their illness progresses.

Emotional and Spiritual Support

This can include providing counseling and support to help patients and their families cope with the emotional challenges of a serious illness. Palliative care teams often work closely with chaplains and other spiritual caregivers to provide spiritual support to patients and their loved ones.

Practical Assistance and Coordination of Care

This can include coordinating care with other healthcare providers, such as home health agencies and hospice care providers. Palliative care teams can also help with decision-making about treatment options and guide managing the financial and legal implications of a serious illness.

Counseling and Support to Patients and Their Families

This can include helping patients and their loved ones understand their illness and its progression, as well as providing support and guidance on difficult decisions that may need to be made. Palliative care teams can also provide support and resources to help patients and their families navigate the challenges of living with a serious illness.

Care Providers

Hospice teams typically include a medical director, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, volunteers, and trained caregivers who provide physical and emotional support during a patient’s final months of life. Palliative care teams may include physicians, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare providers who specialize in symptom management and helping people live as comfortably as possible throughout their illness.

Paying for Care

When it comes to paying for services, most health insurance plans cover palliative care, but the amount of coverage may vary depending on the specific plan. It's important to check with your insurance provider to understand the details of your coverage.

Furthermore, health insurance plans usually cover hospice care, and it is also covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This means that eligible patients can receive hospice care services regardless of their ability to pay. If you or a loved one needs hospice care, it's important to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to understand your options and eligibility for coverage.

Where to Receive the Care

Palliative care can be provided wherever the patient is being treated for their illness. This can include hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, and even the patient's home. Palliative care teams are trained to provide care in a variety of settings and can work closely with patients and their families to determine the best location for care.

Most hospice care is provided in the place the person calls home. However, hospice care can also be provided in nursing homes, retirement centers, hospice centers, hospitals, and other settings.

Things to Consider when Choosing Between Hospice and Palliative Care

For those facing a serious illness, managing pain and other symptoms is paramount. Hospice and palliative care are two types of services that help address these needs, but they differ in important ways.

There are several factors to consider when deciding between hospice and palliative care. Some of the key things to think about include:

The stage of your illness

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, while hospice care is typically reserved for people who are in the advanced stages of a serious illness and are no longer seeking curative treatment. If you are in the early or middle stages of your illness, palliative care may be a better option.

Your goals and preferences

Palliative care and hospice care are both focused on providing relief from symptoms, pain, and stress, but they may approach this goal differently. Palliative care may focus more on providing support and treatment that can help you maintain your quality of life, while hospice care may focus more on providing comfort and support as you near the end of your life. It's important to think about your goals and preferences and discuss them with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team.

Your available support

Palliative care and hospice care both require a team of healthcare professionals to provide care, but hospice care may require more support from family members and other caregivers. If you have a strong support system, hospice care may be a good option. However, if you have limited support or are unable to care for yourself, palliative care may be a better choice.

Your insurance coverage

Palliative care and hospice care are both covered by most health insurance plans, but the amount of coverage may vary. It's important to check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage and any potential out-of-pocket costs. Medicare and Medicaid also provide coverage for hospice care, but not all palliative care services may be covered.

Doctor's opinion

Your doctor is the best source of information about which type of care may be right for you. They will be able to provide advice based on your individual situation and can explain the differences between palliative care and hospice care. No matter what option you choose, it's important to talk openly with your doctor, caregivers, and other members of your healthcare team about your condition and goals.

Related Articles

About the Author

Ericka Nicolas

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Ericka Nicolas began her career in the banking industry where she learned the importance of being detail-oriented and well-organized, both of which she applies to her current work as a writer and proofreader. With her vast experience in writing, Ericka is able to produce well-researched and engaging content that appeals to Elderguide's target audience. She was able to provide readers with valuable insights on a variety of topics and ensures that all the information she provides is accurate and up-to-date. She takes the time to carefully study each topic given to her, which allows her to produce truly informative articles. Ericka's passion for writing and her dedication to producing quality content gave way to her goal of helping our readers navigate the complex world of senior living and make informed decisions about their future. Aside from her work at Elderguide, Ericka enjoys spending time with her newly-married husband and their dog, Yari. She loves cooking, traveling, and exploring new restaurants in her spare time.