June 11, 2021
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Hospice vs Palliative Care, what is the Difference?

Often there is confusion around hospice vs palliative care. Phyllis is not sure how to differentiate between the two types of care programs. Also, what exactly is palliative care and does it carry the same meaning for a very ill person? What about a person who does not have much longer to live?  

Hospice and palliative care are in place for people who have very significant medical illness, maybe even end of life care. They are now in need of comforting, competent, and compassionate care. Nurses within hospice care know there is a difference between these two terms. While they have been used interchangeably in the past, they are not the same.   

The best way to know the difference between hospice care and palliative care is to learn the meaning of each.   

Hospice vs Palliative Care - What is Hospice Care?  

This is for the loved one who is nearing the end of their life. They will ultimately succumb to an incurable disease. They will get special treatment by healthcare professionals trained for this purpose. Hospice care aims to provide symptom relief. Therefore, the person may live their last weeks or months as comfortably as possible. During this time, you as the caregiver and your loved one will need a lot of emotional support.   

Chronically ill persons may transition to hospice care when diagnosed as terminally ill. They would have come to a point where they are nearing the end of their lives as they only have six months or less to live in the view of their primary physician.   

Many hospitals and nursing homes offer hospice care. You can also elect to receive this care in the comfort of home. It will involve doctors, nurses, family members, caregivers. Even clergy persons are available to provide comfort to your loved ones at this time.   

Hospice vs Palliative Care - What is Palliative Care?  

Caregiver and loved one deciding between hospice vs palliative care

Those with a chronic illness needing a better life will receive palliative care. Cancer patients, those with AIDS or severe kidney disease often receive palliative care. Some talk about this type of care as palliative medicine. This is the type of treatment that eases one's pain.

Dealing with an illness makes it harder to get around, play, or work. In many instances, it leads to anxiety and depression. Palliative care is often needed for cases like these.   

How Do You Decide Between Hospice vs Palliative Care?


Phyllis and her family are concerned about her mother-in-law's health. They want to know in advance the best way to decide between hospice care and palliative care. She recalls how one of her friends felt paralyzed trying help her own ill father make these decisions.

In that case, her friend realized the extent of her dad's health issues when one test after the other indicated pancreatic cancer. At that time, her mind was flooded with all kinds of questions about the best way to care for her father's health.   

Her dad's doctor laid out the proposed treatment plan. It would involve either hospice or palliative care at some point. The friend knew she would have to learn more about the best way forward to care for her aging father.   

He has always been such a healthy guy, so she was concerned about which way would be best for him. Would he be better off opting for palliative care, or would hospice be more suitable?  

Phyllis' friend learned hospice and palliative care are for those who face a life-threatening illness. They take a holistic approach to caring for a patient. Furthermore, serious illness does not only affect your body, it also has a severe implication for one's mind and spirit.   

Both programs provide counseling, managing your symptoms, administering medication, and day-to-day care. Also, they are offered as outpatient or inpatient services. Allowing your loved one to choose to stay at home, or if more intensive care is needed, to go to a center designed for this type of care.

The key difference between hospice vs palliative care is that hospice care is reserved for the terminally ill. The patient will likely only live for a few months and will not be receiving any further medical treatment to extend their life.

Palliative care will be given to a person with a serious diagnosis in need of treatment. This way, they will address the side effects much better than any traditional treatment would. Physical and occupational therapies may also be provided for rehabilitative services in addition to care provided by a doctor, nurse, social workers, and counselors.   

How to Navigate a Loved One's Illness Who is Subjected to Hospice or Palliative Care?  

Hospice care for a loved one

Phyllis discovered how difficult it could be to deal with her own parents and her mother-in-law's illnesses. It is unbearable to even think about the prospect of losing a loved one. But for our sake and theirs, it is critical to find the right type of care once they become chronically ill.   

Either hospice or palliative care will help them feel better emotionally and help reduce or remove their pain. It will allow you and the rest of the family to cope, knowing the needs of your loved ones are taken care of. Hospice and palliative programs provide family counseling. This can be particularly useful for supporting your family through the ups and downs of a chronically ill elderly parent. You should not be put in a situation where you must navigate the serious illness or the end of your loved one's life alone.   

Palliative care can help to make your loved one's life a lot easier and bearable while under treatment. You may not be able to control the outcome of your elderly family member's illness. But, you will be happy to know they are well cared for by people who have their best interest at heart. Your mind can rest easy knowing your loved one is well supported by people who care for them.   

The Differences Between Hospice and Palliative Places of Treatment  

The main difference between hospice care and palliative care is the length of time this care is provided. Hospice care is usually provided for a shorter duration of time as it is reserved for those in their last 6 months of life. There are no longer life saving procedures provided while under hospice care.

Either hospice or palliative care can be provided at home, clinics, nursing homes or hospitals.

Duration of Hospice and Palliative Treatment  

Palliative care is administered at any stage, right from the time of the diagnosis to hope for a cure. This type of treatment cures the patient's disease and is used with life-sustaining therapies. It is not expected of the patient to give up their fight for recovery.   

Hospice care involves patients whose doctors have told them that they only have six months or less to live. Like palliative care, your loved one will receive the necessary care to make their time as peaceful and comfortable as possible. The only difference is that any attempt to cure the illness is stopped. Hospice patients will not be given any tests or medicines they do not need, as they may cause discomfort and at this point will not improve the chances of recovery. The goal of hospice care personnel is not to prolong the patient's life in their care. It is to ensure the person approaching death lives their last months without too much pain and discomfort.   

One aspect that may be a reason for concern for family members of a hospice patient is the cost associated with it. But as long as it was pre-determined that the patient will only live for six months, they would qualify for insurance coverage. In this case, Phyllis and her family will not be responsible for the medical bill once her mother-in-law becomes terminally ill. Check with your loved ones insurance provider to confirm requirements for coverage.


Irrespective of the differences between hospice vs palliative care, the ultimate goal of both of these is to:  

  • Boost comfort  
  • Improve one's quality of life  
  • Offer loving support for the elderly and their families  
  • Assist with important decisions about health care and medical treatment  

Neither hospice care nor palliative care requires you to give up seeing a doctor. And palliative care complements the curative treatments and care you receive from your physician. Both options are designed to provide the best outcomes for your loved one during this difficult time.

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That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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