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The Difference Between Hospice Care and Palliative Care

hospice patient laying in bed in their home

There are similarities between hospice care and palliative care, and the terms are often used interchangeably; however, the two types of care are not the same. The biggest difference is that palliative care may include curative treatments, but hospice care does not. Additionally, hospice care is always palliative care, but palliative care isn’t confined to a hospice program. 

What is hospice care?

The main focus of hospice care is to provide comfort and symptom relief to those with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care does not attempt to treat or cure disease. It utilizes palliative care in combination with other forms of support to ease pain and help the terminally ill individual and their family prepare for the individual’s end of life.

Hospice care involves input from medical professionals in conjunction with family members, counselors, clergy, social workers, and others, who help the individual deal with the complex emotions surrounding death and dying, such as sadness, anger, and regret.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is sometimes referred to as palliative medicine and is also available to those living with a long-term, chronic condition, such as kidney disease, AIDS, and cancer, regardless of prognosis. This type of care is provided in addition to other treatments to ease the pain and discomfort related to the disease and its treatment. It can also help with problems related to such things as work, hobbies, and mobility, as well as offer emotional support. 

Patients who receive palliative care outside of a hospice setting are able to pursue a curative approach to their illness. Even in cases where the disease is life-limiting, palliative care helps patients be as active as possible for as long as possible to enjoy a near-normal life. Many who receive palliative care report feeling more in control of their life.

Who is eligible for hospice care or palliative care?

Hospice care is available to people with a life-limiting condition and whose doctor determines that they have less than six months to live. Some may be in a hospice program for much longer, depending on how their terminal illness progresses. For someone to remain in a hospice program for longer than six months, the hospice medical director or attending physician must recertify that the person remains terminally ill.

Palliative care is available from the moment a patient is diagnosed with a serious, long-term illness, regardless of how advanced the illness is. ■

This material was not created to provide medical advise but to be a helpful resource for hospice education and information. Please contact a local hospice provider near you or a certified physician when seeking any medical advise for you or a family member. Visit www.hospice101.com for more free printable resources and to find a hospice care provider near you.

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