3 Differences between Palliative Care and Hospice

Russ Krengel Palliative Care

When patients hear the terms “palliative care” and “hospice,” they may not realize there’s a difference between them. After all, these treatments can be vastly similar, since they’re both focused on patient comfort.

Most people don’t want to spend significant time in the hospital, let alone die in a sterile hospital setting. Both palliative care and hospice aim to honor the wishes of the patient in terms of how invasively they want to be treated, and how much time they spend in the hospital.

If you’re a caregiver for a loved one who has received a serious diagnosis and the doctor mentioned palliative care and hospice, you may wonder what the differences are between them and how you determine which one is right for your loved one. Read on to find out how palliative care and hospice are similar and how they’re different – and how you can determine which one is best for your situation.

Hospice and Palliative Care Are Similar

First, it’s important to recognize the similarities between these treatments. Palliative care and hospice share several of the same goals and features, so they could easily be confused for one another.

The main similarities are:

These significant similarities bring up another question: what are the differences between palliative care and hospice?

3 Key Differences between Hospice and Palliative Care

Below are three key differences between hospice and palliative care. These differences are fundamental to distinguishing between these treatments and what they’re used for.

While palliative care can be for anyone with a serious diagnosis, hospice is only for patients who are not expected to recover, and who have 6 months or less to live. Also, while patients can seek palliative care at any point in their diagnosis, hospice patients must have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Because patients can seek out palliative care at any time, their palliative treatment occurs at the same time as their disease treatment. Palliative care specialists can work in conjunction with the patient’s other medical teams in order to make the patient’s desires known and catered to.

Since patients in hospice care are terminally ill, their treatment is no longer focused on counteracting or reversing the course of their illness. Instead, these patients are cared for at home, whether that home be a nursing facility or their own residence. By contrast, palliative care patients do receive illness-focused treatments that might bring them into the hospital setting.

In short, these are the key differences between palliative care and hospice you should remember. The next issue you’ll need to consider is when and how a patient might move between them.

When to Transition from Palliative Care to Hospice

As an illness progresses, the patient and their family may be faced with the difficulty of deciding whether it’s time to transition from palliative care to hospice. While this conversation may be introduced by the doctor, the patient and their family members should discuss this possibility well in advance.

Often, this discussion is part of the palliative care process, since palliative care providers want the patient to express their needs early in treatment. Consequently, the patient may have pre-established boundaries for how invasive or extensive they want their treatment to be.

Some points where the patient might draw the line:

Of course, before making any decisions, the patient and their family will need to consult their doctor, since hospice care is only for people whose doctors believe they have 6 months or less to live.


Learn More about Palliative Care and Hospice

If you’re curious to learn more about both palliative care and hospice, the differences, similarities, and which is best for you and your family, please contact us at Kindful Hospice. We have physicians, counselors, chaplains, and volunteers ready to assist you with your hospice and palliative care needs.