Palliative vs. Hospice Care

palliative care hospice care

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Although both hospice and palliative care aim to offer pain and symptom relief to their patients, their overall outcomes can differ. Hospice care provides comfort without the intention to cure the patient. Typically, patients will no longer have any curative options or have chosen to discontinue treatment. Palliative care, on the other hand, is comfort care with or without curative intent.

What is palliative care?

The Center to Advance Palliative Care defines palliative care as “specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness.” Essentially, allowing the patient to live with an improved quality of life.

A palliative care team is made up of doctors, nurses, and other specialists that collaborate with the patient’s doctor to offer extra support. They also state that “palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis.” Care can be delivered at any age and any stage in an illness with or without any curative treatment.

What is hospice care?

With some diseases, there comes a point where treatment no longer serves a purpose. At that point, hospice care becomes an option. The American Cancer Society does a great job explaining hospice on their website. Hospice care is a form of care that focuses on the quality of life for those suffering from an advanced disease. Its goal is to provide care that will allow the patient’s final days to be spent as comfortably as possible.

They share that hospice “affirms life, but does not try to hasten or postpone death.” Instead of treating the disease, as there is nothing to be done on that front, hospice care treats the symptoms of the disease. A team of medical professionals works together to keep the symptoms manageable. This allows the patient’s final days to be spent with dignity and surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice care is heavily centered around the patient and their family, especially when making important decisions.

The Comparison

As was stated previously, hospice and palliative care both offer pain and symptom relief by a team of doctors. However, there are some clear differences, and they include:

  • Eligibility. Two physicians must declare that a patient has less than six months to live for an individual to be eligible for hospice. Palliative care can be recommended by a physician or doctor at any time during their illness, terminal or not.
  • Cost. Hospice care is fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Hospice care is actually the only benefit that includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, 24/7 access to care, nursing, social services, chaplain visits, grief support, and other services deemed appropriate. On the other hand, palliative care costs and coverage can vary.
  • Location. Because hospice relies on comfort, it is usually conducted at home or in home-like facilities. Palliative care teams usually work out of a hospital.


We hope that this information on palliative vs. hospice care is useful to you.

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