Palliative Care vs Hospice: What’s the Difference?

Palliative care and hospice often create confusion. These terms are often used interchangeably by many people. However, there are unique differences between palliative care and hospice. While they may have some similarities, there are some major differences as well.

This article will highlight the differences between palliative care and hospice, and help you decide which is best for you and your loved ones.

What are the similarities between palliative care and hospice care?

Palliative care and hospice care are healthcare specialties designed to support people of all ages with chronic, long-term illnesses, including, but not limited to:

Irrespective of the kind of illness, the aim of both palliative care and hospice care is to:

  • Increase the comfort of the individual
  • Boost the quality of life of the patient
  • Provide emotional support for the patient and their family
  • Help you make the right decisions about medical treatment

Neither palliative care nor hospice requires you to give up your primary healthcare provider. Both forms of care will work with your primary care provider for care coordination and management.

What are the differences between palliative care and hospice?

The primary difference between palliative care and hospice is the time of availability.

Palliative care is given right from the time diagnosis is done. In other words, palliative care does not depend on how severe the illness is, neither does it depend on whether the patient is receiving life-prolonging or curative treatments.

Some of the main differences between palliative care and hospice are highlighted in the table below:

Palliative CareHospice
Who needs it?Anyone who has a chronic condition, regardless of the stageAnyone suffering from a terminal illness with less than 6 months left to live
What does it involve?• relief of symptoms
• Helps make critical healthcare decisions
• emotional, spiritual, and financial support for the patient and their family
• assistance in care coordination
• symptom relief
• help to make important end-of-life decisions
• emotional, spiritual, and financial support for the patient and their family
• assistance in coordinating care
Can you still get curative treatments?yes, if you want tono, you must stop curative treatments to qualify for hospice
Can you still get life-prolonging treatments?yes, if you want tono, you must stop life-prolonging treatments to qualify for hospice
Who’s involved?a doctor or nurse(s) specializing in palliative care, as well as other healthcare professionals such as your primary doctor, pharmacists, social workers, and counselorsa doctor or nurse(s) specializing in hospice care, as well as other healthcare professionals such as your primary doctor, pharmacists, social workers, and counselors
Where can I get it?depending on where you live, home care is sometimes available but is most often offered through a hospital or outpatient clinic• a hospital
• a nursing home
• an assisted-living facility
• a hospice facility
• your own home
How long can you get it for?depends on your insurance coverage and what treatments you needas long as you meet the care provider’s life expectancy requirements
When can you get it?as soon as you receive a diagnosiswhen an illness is terminal or life-limiting

Hospice is offered toward the end of life. It is given only when there’s no possibility of a cure for the disease or if the patient decides to forego life-prolonging treatment.

Only people who have less than 6 months to live are qualified for hospice care.

Are they covered by insurance?

This depends on your illness, coverage, and required treatments.

In some cases, palliative care treatments are funded by private insurance or Medicare. Treatments are billed separately. You must visit a healthcare provider to check the treatments that are covered.

Medicare covers hospice, provided your healthcare provider has proof that you have just six months left to live.

Private insurance may also cover end-of-life. Consult your provider to know what’s covered and whether you are eligible.

Deciding between palliative care and hospice care

This isn’t an easy decision to make. You are better off discussing your options sooner.

Studies have shown that both palliative care and hospice are effective when started early. It has also been discovered that many people access hospice care quite late.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can decide which option is best for you or your loved one.

Where are you at?

You must get palliative care as soon as you receive a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition. On the other hand, hospice care is only made available when your doctor evaluates a timeline for death.

Palliative care may be administered for years before moving into hospice care. Sometimes, an individual may recover from sickness while receiving palliative care. It depends on several factors, such as illnesses & prognosis.

What is your doctor’s opinion?

Ask your healthcare provider for your prognosis. Even the best doctors can’t be definitive. What is usually given is an estimate.

To help you decide, your doctor can list ways that could help you benefit from either form of care.

Are you ready to stop life-prolonging or curative treatments?

Palliative care can be administered while still receiving curative or life-prolonging treatments.

To receive hospice care, you must stop every form of curative treatment.

This is usually a tough decision for many. It is the toughest decision one may make during treatment. It may require substantial reflection. You may want to discuss with your doctor, family, a social worker, or a counselor to help you decide rightly.

If you think that you’re not set to stop the treatment, then it is best to settle for palliative care.

Where do you want to receive care?

This should be considered. It depends on where you live. Palliative care is usually administered at a clinic or hospital. Hospice care is available at home.

In conclusion

If you are diagnosed with long-term, life-altering illness, you can access palliative care. Hospice care is available for people suffering from a terminal illness, or no less than 6 months to live.

Consult your healthcare provider to decide which is best for you.