Palliative Care vs. Hospice: What’s the Difference?
What's the difference when it comes to palliative vs. hospice care? (And what about comfort care?) Though hospice and palliative care may be inaccurately used interchangeably from time to time, they're not the same thing (especially when it comes to whether insurance will cover it or not), so knowing the difference between these terms is crucial.
Palliative Care vs Hospice Care definitions
Palliative Care meaning: Palliative care is defined as an interdisciplinary approach to specialized medical and nursing care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care can start at any stage of an illness and does not require that the illness be terminal. Hospice Care meaning: Hospice care is a type of palliative care and a specific philosophy of care that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient's symptoms. These symptoms can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or social in nature. The goal of hospice is to allow patients to remain as comfortable and free of pain as possible so that they may enjoy the time they have left. Hospice care also provides support to the patient's loved ones. Hospice care is for those that have less than six month to live.
Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care
The main difference between hospice and palliative care is that hospice is only provided to patients with a terminal illness who have six months or less to live, while palliative care can be provided to anyone with a serious illness.
Another main difference between hospice and palliative care is the cost to the family or individual. Hospice is a Medicare-covered benefit, which means there is no out-of-pocket cost to the patient or family for hospice services in most cases. Whether hospice care is undertaken in the home, in a nursing facility, or in a hospice, Medicare will cover the costs. If the individual or family does not have Medicare, the costs are typically covered by private insurance. For those that are uninsured, there are nonprofit hospice care organizations that offer care at a reduced rate or for free.
Palliative care is only partially covered by Medicare (Part B) and Medicaid, and typically requires patients to co-pay for items that aren't covered. This is often the case with private insurances as well, though your experience will differ depending on the type of private insurance you hold.
A final difference between hospice and palliative care is the length of time that each type of care is provided. Hospice care is typically provided for a period of six months or less, while palliative care can be provided indefinitely.
Comfort Care vs. Hospice
It may come as a surprise to you, but comfort care is no different than palliative care and is often a term used interchangeably with palliative care and hospice care alike. The differences between "comfort care" and hospice are the same differences as palliative and hospice care: “comfort care” (also known as palliative care) is for patients at any stage of an illness who are in need of specialized interdisciplinary medical care to provide relief from symptoms and pain; hospice care is for those seeking similar services, but who are given a terminal diagnosis of less than 6 months to live.
What kind of services are offered in palliative care?
Palliative care teams offer a wide range of services to patients and families. These services may be provided in the hospital, in outpatient clinics, or in the patient’s home. Services typically include:
- Pain and symptom management
- Improving the quality of life for both the family and the patient being treated
- Alleviates distress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional turmoil
- Help patients identify treatment goals and plans
- Providing assistance with medical and service equipment
- Empowering both caregivers and patients to make informed decisions
- Spiritual support and counseling
- Mental health support
Palliative care teams work closely with the patient’s other doctors to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the patient’s overall care is coordinated. Palliative care is not only for patients with terminal illnesses—it can be beneficial for anyone with a serious illness.
What kind of services are offered in hospice care?
Hospice care teams also offer a wide range of services to patients and families. These services may be provided in the hospital, in outpatient clinics, or in the patient’s home. Services typically include:
- Pain and symptom management
- Medication management
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Dietary counseling and information
- Short-term respite care for caregivers
- Grief counseling for both the patient and their family
- Spiritual support
Though both palliative care and hospice care provide many of the same services, the primary difference is the length of time that these services are delivered over. Hospice care is for those who are given a terminal diagnosis of less than 6 months to live.
Looking for a hospice? Studies show that patients benefit greatly from hospice, and many individuals choose to enter into hospice later than they should. Browse Ever Loved’s database of hospices near you to find the right hospice for your loved one. You can easily read reviews, ask questions, and get in touch with the hospice facility for additional information -- all in one place.