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Palliative Care vs Hospice Care: making end-of-life decisions


hands reaching out helping palliative care illness

When it comes to end-of-life treatment, you have choices and you can make informed decisions by discussing options with healthcare providers you trust

When a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness or reaches the end stage of a chronic disease, they are often left with a choice of how to manage their care. Two options, commonly known as palliative care and hospice care, are available to patients during these difficult times.


Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, it’s essential to understand their significant differences to make an informed decision.


Palliative Care


Palliative care is all about providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical, and mental stress caused by their disease. It is more commonly offered at hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities, and can also be provided at home.


Palliative care can start at any stage of a chronic illness diagnosis and is typically offered along with traditional therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation. Its focus is on improving the quality of life for patients, as well as their families, by helping them manage the physical and emotional distress that comes with a chronic illness.


The primary goal of palliative care is to provide a holistic and personalized approach to treating symptoms, enhancing patient comfort, and improving the quality of life.


This approach includes managing pain, addressing spiritual, cultural, and social welfare needs, providing emotional support to patients and their family members, and dealing with the psychological and mental outcomes of a chronic illness.


Hospice Care


Hospice care, on the other hand, is for people who are nearing the end of life and have stopped pursuing curative treatments. This care focuses on improving the quality of life during the last six months of life and is usually offered in-home, assisted living centers, hospice facilities, and hospitals.


Hospice is not only for patients with cancer but covers a wide range of terminal illnesses, including chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and heart failure. Patients receiving hospice care have usually decided to focus on their comfort rather than attempting to heal their illness.


The primary objective of hospice care is to provide an optimum quality of life for patients by providing soothing treatment for discomforting symptoms or pain. Hospice care also supports patients and their families to cope with their end of life journey by providing spiritual, emotional, and social support to both patients and their families

The Differences Between Palliative and

Hospice Care


Despite the similarities between the two, hospice and palliative care differ in several crucial ways:


Timing of Treatment


While palliative care can be administered at any time during the course of a chronic illness, hospice care is offered to patients who have a life-expectancy of about six months or less. Hospice care is for those who have chosen to stop seeking active treatment to cure their illness and instead choose to focus on comfort measures only.


Location of Treatment


While both hospice and palliative care can be offered at a person’s home, hospice care can also be provided in a hospice facility, long-term care centers, and hospitals. Palliative care may also take place in these settings, but it may also happen in outpatient clinics or physician’s offices.


Treatment Goals


The primary goal of palliative care is to improve the patient’s quality of life and overall comfort, regardless of whether or not they are receiving curative treatment. Focused on symptom management and pain relief, palliative care works to improve the quality of life for patients by helping them manage the physical and emotional distress caused by their illness.


Hospice care, on the other hand, has the primary goal of enhancing the quality of life in the patient’s last months. The goal of hospice is not to cure the disease but to provide comfort, emotional, and spiritual care to both the patient and their family members.


Length of Care


Palliative care is an ongoing service and may take place for an undetermined length of time. It may begin at any time during a patient’s chronic illness and may continue even alongside active treatment. On the contrary, hospice care is a short-term service that begins when the patient has about six months or less to live and is expected to last until the end of life.


Cost of Care


Palliative care is usually covered through a patient’s health insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. Hospice care, on the other hand, is typically almost always fully covered by Medicare and Medicaid or insurance policies, which can help ease the burden of costs for the patient and their family.


When it comes to palliative versus hospice care, the differences may seem small, but they are incredibly impactful. Palliative care is focused on symptom management and improving the quality of life through holistic care. Hospice care is focused on enhancing quality of life during end-of-life care.


Whatever care you decide to choose, it’s important to remember that you have choices and that you can make informed decisions by discussing options with healthcare providers you trust. Whether the decision is palliative or hospice, this end-of-life care is all about providing relief, comfort, and support to both patients and their families.


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