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Understanding the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

Navigating the landscape of end-of-life care can be overwhelming, especially when faced with complex choices such as Hospice and Palliative care. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they serve distinct purposes.

Hospice Care

Hospice Care is a specialized form of healthcare designed for individuals who are in the final stages of a terminal illness. The primary goal of Hospice Care is to provide comfort, pain management, and emotional support and can be provided in or outside the home.

Offerings of Hospice Care

  1. Pain Management: Hospice Care prioritizes the alleviation of pain and discomfort, employing a range of medications and therapies.
  2. Emotional and Spiritual Support: A multidisciplinary team, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains, provides emotional and spiritual support.
  3. Family Counseling: Hospice Care recognizes the impact of a terminal illness on a family and offers counseling services to help them cope with grief and bereavement.

Limitations of Hospice Care

  1. Terminal Illness Requirement: Hospice Care is specifically designed for individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It can be extended. Conversely, people do come off hospice for various reasons.
  2. Focused on Comfort, Not Curative Treatments: Hospice Care prioritizes comfort and quality of life and is not focused on curative treatments. This may not be the wish of someone who wants to pursue aggressive treatment options.
  3. It Does Not Cover All Care.  Aides, nurses or other professionals provided deliver hospice services and may not include help with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s)

Palliative Care

Palliative Care is a broader approach that can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, not just in the final months of life. The primary aim is to relieve symptoms and improve the overall well-being of patients facing serious illnesses, whether treatable, chronic, or life-threatening.

Offerings of Palliative Care

  1. Pain and Symptom Management: Like hospice care, it prioritizes the relief of pain and other distressing symptoms, regardless of the stage of illness.
  2. Coordination of Care: Palliative Care teams work to ensure that all aspects of a patient’s care are well-coordinated. This includes addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the patient.
  3. Treatment Options: Palliative Care allows for concurrent curative treatments. Patients can continue to receive aggressive therapies while benefiting from the supportive care provided by the Palliative Care team.

Limitations of Palliative Care

  1. Limited Emphasis on End-of-Life Planning: Palliative care addresses a spectrum of needs, but may not provide the same level of support for end-of-life planning and bereavement services as hospice care.
  2. Resource Availability: Access to palliative care services can be limited based on geographic location, healthcare infrastructure, and financial constraints.

Payment and Service Providers

Hospice Care:

  • Payment: Hospice Care is often covered by Medicare, Medicaid. Most hospice services are provided at no cost to the patient or family.
  • Service Providers: Hospice Care is typically delivered by a team of healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains that may be provided by a Hospice company or the hospice division of a Home Health Agency.

Palliative Care:

  • Payment: Palliative Care is often covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, coverage may vary, and patients should check with their insurance providers.
  • Service Providers: Palliative Care can be delivered by a range of healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, social workers, and other specialists and is provided in various settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and even at home.


Hospice and Palliative Care both enhance the quality of life for individuals facing serious illnesses, but they differ in their focus, eligibility criteria, and when they are typically provided. For more information or for referrals to services available in your area reach out to Oasis Senior Advisors, they offer their services, expertise, and referrals at no cost to you. TheDoyles – 914.356.1901 | 475.619.4123

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