Hospice vs. Palliative Care

By definition, Palliative care and Hospice care are similar, in that both focus on relieving symptoms that are related to life-limiting illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, AIDS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and other neurological diseases. The differences are in the type of treatment, timing of treatment, location, and services.

Palliative care can be used at any stage of illness — not just the advanced stages. An example of palliative care is for relief of nausea symptoms for a patient undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Treatment Differences:

Treatments are not limited with Palliative care and can range from conservative to aggressive/curative.

Hospice care treatments are limited and focus on palliation (relief) from symptoms. The goal is no longer to cure but to provide comfort and the best quality of life possible.
Treatment Timing:

Palliative care can be considered at any time during the course of a life-limiting illness.

With Hospice care, Medicare requires that a physician certify that a patient’s condition is terminal. The physician must certify that a patient’s life expectancy is six month or less, given the natural course of the illness.

Palliative care services are focused on relief of pain and other symptoms while still supporting the patient and his or her family socially, spiritually and psychologically. Typically, Palliative Care involves supporting a patient in managing his or her healthcare needs such as coordinating healthcare services, answering questions about his or her illness and symptoms, managing the medication regime and diet and making healthcare decisions.

Hospice care includes many of the same benefits of Palliative Care. However, because a patient receiving Hospice care has a diagnosis with a life expectancy of six months or less, the patients and their family will experience additional and more frequent resources for care and support. Additionally, the focus of the support and education shifts in relation to the stage of the disease process.