Understanding the Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Understanding the Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care

Understanding the Difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care


When someone is dealing with a serious or life-threatening illness, you might hear the terms “palliative care” and “hospice care” being used. But what do they mean? And how are they different? It’s a confusing topic for many people, but understanding the key distinctions is important for getting the right care at the right time.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is all about providing relief from the symptoms and stress of any serious illness. The focus is on improving the patient’s and their family’s quality of life.

Some key things you should know include:

  • Anyone can receive palliative care—even from the very first diagnosis.
  • The goal is to manage pain and other symptoms, not cure the disease itself.
  • Treatment is given alongside curative care, like chemotherapy for cancer.

Here are a few reasons you should consider palliative care for yourself or someone you love:

  • Diagnosis of a life-threatening or life-limiting condition like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, etc.
  • Frequent hospitalizations or uncomfortable side effects from treatment.
  • Difficulty controlling pain or other distressing symptoms.
  • The desire for physical, emotional, and spiritual support in coping with the illness.

Palliative care teams include doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and others—whatever additional support is needed.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a specialized type of palliative care reserved for patients with terminal illnesses whose life expectancy is six months or less. Here are a few things about hospice care you should know:

  • When treatment is discontinued and the emphasis switches from curing the disease to improving the patients’ quality of life.
  • The priority is keeping the patient comfortable through pain management.
  • Care happens at home or in a hospice facility, not the hospital.
  • Services support the whole family, not just the patient.

Signs it may be time to consider hospice:

  • Increased pain, nausea, and breathing problems that are hard to control.
  • Failure to respond to treatments, with disease progression continuing.
  • Multiple trips to the hospital for care in recent months.
  • Choosing to prioritize quality of life over further curative treatments.

A hospice care team typically includes physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, spiritual care coordinators, volunteers, and bereavement counselors.

Two Paths with the Same Compassionate Goal

Both palliative care and hospice care aim to relieve suffering and improve the quality of life for people with advanced illnesses. The main difference lies in:

  • Timing: Palliative care can start at diagnosis, while hospice care is intended for the last six months of life.
  • Treatment Plan: Palliative allows curative treatments to continue, whereas hospice implies the disease is terminal, and curative treatments are no longer being pursued.
  • Care Settings: Palliative services can be delivered in hospitals, while hospice care emphasizes in-home care.

Another key contrast? Insurance coverage. Palliative care payments come out of regular health plan benefits. Hospice has its own special Medicare or Medicaid benefit for approved providers.

Getting the Right Care at the Right Time

Dealing with a serious illness can be daunting, but early access to palliative care or hospice care emphasizes living life to the fullest for as long as possible. The key is understanding your options and accessing the right level of care when needed.

Don’t hesitate to lean on care team members to guide you in making the most compassionate decisions. Explore how Bonita Springs Healthcare Services in Gilroy, CA, can support you or your loved one through every stage of care. Whether you’re seeking palliative support or hospice services, contact us today to discover compassionate care personalized to your needs.

Posted by Site Publisher
1 month ago / April 16, 2024

Filed Under: Blog

Get Started

Download Our Guide:
Caregiver Burnout and How to Avoid It

How do you know if you are experiencing caregiver burnout? Download our free guide and learn the warning signs, how to avoid them, and when to seek assistance.

Please complete the form below and we will email the guide to you immediately.