3 main differences between hospice and palliative care

3 main differences between hospice and palliative care


You may not be the only one who wonders about what is the difference between "hospice care" and "palliative care". The two forms of health care are often considered the same, as they both focus on the quality of life and spiritual, emotional and physical support to a person diagnosed with a disease or condition.

Hospice care, however, is different in several ways from palliative care. If you or a loved one thinks about these forms of care - or need to do so in the future - we explain three of the main differences below.

Hospice focuses on care at the end of life

Palliative care is available at every stage of a diagnosis, but hospice care includes a team-based approach to provide expert medical care, spiritual and emotional support, as well as pain relief to individuals whose disease has been deemed as fatal by their physicians and other healthcare professionals. Hospice care is available only to patients who are expected to live another six months or less. However, it can be extended if a person lives longer than expected and their prognosis is still the same. Patients are able to use both forms of health care at the same time. However, palliative care is best used at the beginning of the diagnosis.

Hospice patients no longer receive treatment to cure their illness

Patients who opt for palliative care undergo tests, take medication and receive a different treatment to cure their illness while minimizing discomfort and pain. Hospice care aims to provide pain control and symptom relief. However, the hospice patients are working with their physicians, the hospice team and loved ones to create a treatment plan that is no longer focusing on disease elimination. Instead, it's all about the care that allows patients not to feel any pain and spend as much of their last days as they want.

Hospice care is covered by Medicare

Hospice care is different from palliative care also because it falls under Medicare Part A if the patient meets the following criteria:

  • Their hospice doctor and her family doctor discover that their illness is fatal and is expected to live six months or less
  • If they opt for palliative care at the same time, it’s not to cure their illness but to have comfort
  • The patient signs a statement declaring that he or she chooses hospice care instead of another treatment covered by Medicare for their fatal illness and related conditions
Hospice Care Shared Qualities Palliative Care
  • Focuses on end-of-life care for patients with fatal diagnoses
  • Doesn’t try to cure disease or illness
  • Based on a six-month timeline but can be extended
  • Medicare often covers payment
  • Main goal: comfort and high quality of life to patient and family
  • Provides pain and symptom relief
  • Includes a team of a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals
  • Patient-oriented treatment according to their needs and wishes
  • A philosophy of care and not a physical structure or place
  • May not be covered by private insurance
  • Available at any stage of a serious illness
  • Attempts to cure illness or disease while managing pain and symptoms
  • Payment depends on the individual insurance plan
  • Can be used at the same time as hospice care

While you are receiving hospice care, you may have to pay a small copay for each prescription and other products that provide pain relief and symptom control. Coverage for palliative care depends on your treatment plan and your benefits. For more information about the benefits of Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov.

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Darko Siracevski

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