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Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care


Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Both palliative care and hospice care aim to reduce discomfort and pain, honor a person’s values, support the family, and offer individualized care. The terms ‘hospice’ and ‘palliative’ care often get confused. The choice between hospice and palliative care depends on the specifics of a person’s illness and situation rather than their personal preference. Although they are similar, there are differences between these two types of care.

Palliative Care:

  • Focuses on relief from physical suffering. The patient may be being treated for a disease or may be living with a chronic disease, and may or may not be terminally ill.
  • Addresses the patient’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being, is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, and accompanies the patient from diagnosis to cure.
  • Uses life-prolonging medications.
  • Uses a multi-disciplinary approach using highly trained professionals. Is usually offered where the patient first sought treatment.

Hospice Care:

  • Available to terminally ill Medicaid participants.
  • Makes the patient comfortable and prepares the patient and the patient’s family for the patient’s end of life when it is determined treatment for the illness will no longer be pursued.
  • Does not use life-prolonging medications.
  • Relies on a family caregiver and a visiting hospice nurse. Is offered at a place the patient prefers such as in their home; in a nursing home; or, occasionally, in a hospital.

Planning the Transition

Critical turning points in the course of a patient's illness often signal the need to address palliative and curative care decisions and consider transition to hospice. For example, a person with cancer who is undergoing active treatment may also receive palliative care for symptom management and support throughout the course of their illness. If the cancer progresses or does not respond to treatment, and the person’s condition declines, they may become eligible for hospice care. Your palliative care team may also make a recommendation to consider hospice.

Once you’ve made the decision to pursue hospice care, a hospice staff member will set up a meeting with you to ask questions and confirm if hospice is the right choice. If so, the hospice team will begin to work with your family, either in-home or in a care facility, depending on you and your loved one’s choice.