Palliative Care and Hospice Care: Know The Difference

People who suffer from long-term illness benefit from palliative and hospice care. Both are meant to make the patient feel more comfortable. However, there are key differences in how and when each is used. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between palliative care and hospice, or end-of-life care.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is healthcare put in place for when a patient is suffering from a long-term disease or illness. There is a care plan set up to help them cope with said illness in better ways.

Examples of types of diseases palliative care could help with are:

  • Cancer
  • Lung disease
  • Cardiac disease
  • COPD
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Parkinson’s
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Dementia
  • COVID-19

This type of care is generally provided at home. What is palliative care at home? The goal is to assess what ailments are troubling the patient the most with their disease and comfort them from those symptoms such as depression, nausea, pain, problems with sleeping, slow breathing, anxiety, and other health issues they may deal with daily. The patient’s doctor or health care provider will discuss with them the different treatments or resources that could help. They can prescribe medication, physical and mental therapy, spiritual guidance, and family care support.

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​When Does Palliative Care Begin?

The whole premise of palliative care is to give support through a tough diagnosis and with the following treatments. The start of palliative care depends on the patient’s needs and their specific disease. There can’t be a set start of palliative care, but it typically starts shortly after diagnosis of a long-term illness.

The Five Stages Of Palliative Care

A good way to decide if a patient and surrounding family members require palliative care is by reviewing the five stages of the palliative care process.

Stage One Of Palliative Care

Stage one of palliative care is when the patient’s doctor or other health official sets out a plan of action specific to their disease. The patient will be involved in helping make the plan unique to them.

Stage Two Of Palliative Care

Next, they will be interacting with a wide variety of people in stage two, including social workers, a spiritual or religious guide, and potentially a therapist. All of these resources help the patient get on track emotionally and spiritually if they wish to.

Stage Three Of Palliative Care

No one wants to make the patient feel as though they need a caretaker or nurse. Stage three is all about deciding how to ensure the patient can stay at home or limit the amount of care they need. If at all possible, having the patient maintain independence through their treatment is important.

Stage Four Of Palliative Care

If the disease has progressed and the patient cannot care for themselves anymore, it’s time to discuss and implement the support of a home nurse aide or inpatient care in a hospital. If the disease is terminal, this may also be the stage when end-of-life planning is discussed.

Stage Five Of Palliative Care

This particular stage is when all end-of-life decisions are established, such as funeral arrangements and final wishes. Even if the patient may have more time, this is the part of the process in which all of the final decisions are put in place. Palliative care may continue for a year or more.

What is Hospice Care?

Normally, when someone has hospice care at home or in a medical facility, it is towards the end of their life. Doctors have likely exhausted all treatments and medication, or the patient has made the decision not to seek more treatment.

Essentially, hospice care is designed to make patients as comfortable as possible during their final days. Hospice comes in after there will be no more treatment to cure the disease, and the doctor or health provider has determined that the patient will not live past six months.

The terminally ill patient needs to talk to their doctor about their options with hospice as early as possible. Getting hospice care during the last few months can mean a better transition for the patient and their family members.

Does Medicare Pay For Palliative and Hospice Care?

Medicare pays for portions of hospice care but might not pay for it entirely. Palliative care is all dependent on the medical insurance benefits and the plans that were chosen. Patients should be aware of what their insurance covers, and it’s always a good idea to discuss this before entering a program.

Eliminating Confusion

Palliative care and hospice care are two terms that are often confused because they are so closely related. The thing to remember is that palliative care is for symptom support for an illness that is actively being treated. Hospice care is appropriate for patients that are not actively having treatment and have been given a few months of life expectancy.


Patients should be able to talk with their doctor about whether either of these care plans is right for them. Palliative care and hospice care are not the same. They are similar, but they have separate agendas when it comes to healthcare and planning. Dealing with a disease is hard, but with both palliative and hospice care, the journey is made easier through the proper resources and help.

To learn more about your options, contact us today to learn about which type of care is best for your situation.

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