What’s the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice?

Palliative Care Hospice Care

When it comes to long-term care for elderly loved ones, there are numerous different terms you’ll hear used time and time again: nursing home, retirement home, assisted living, in-home care, palliative care, and hospice care.

At their core, you know they all represent care provided to aging people. But, unless you have a handy dictionary next to you at all times, nobody can blame you if you aren’t familiar with any distinct differences between the terms.

So, today, we’re looking specifically at palliative care and hospice to explore the similarities and differences between these two terms. Let’s get started!

1. Where do these types of care occur?

Perhaps one of the biggest differentiators between these two different types of care is where they’re administered.

Hospice care—which you’re likely more familiar with, as it’s far more common than palliative care—is typically provided within a patient’s home. Occasionally, hospice care is provided in a hospital or a nursing home, but it’s generally not the standard.

Palliative care, on the other hand, doesn’t typically happen inside of an elderly patient’s home. Instead, this type of care is usually administered in a nursing home, hospital, or specialized care facility.

2. Who is involved in each type of care?

When choosing the best option for your elderly loved one, you’ll undoubtedly want to know who’s involved. And, this is another area where hospice and palliative care differ.

A palliative team typically makes up the caregiving group. These individuals are specially trained and usually include nurses, doctors, and other medical caregivers.

In contrast, hospice care relies on a group of hospice professionals—including a hospice nurse who visits a patient’s home. Hospice care also typically relies more on the family caregiver than palliative care does.

3. What sort of treatment does each type of care provide?

Hospice and palliative care also differ in regards to what sort of treatment they provide. However, it’s important to note that individual programs can vary. So, it’s smart to sit down with a doctor or representative from the care facility to ensure you have the correct understanding of what sorts of services are offered.

Hospice care is typically considered to be “end of life” care. The emphasis is more on ensuring that the patient remains comfortable, rather than trying to cure any existing diseases. Most patients on hospice care generally don’t receive any life-prolonging treatments, as they often just cause more discomfort and pain. Instead, the goal of hospice care is simply to provide comfort for elderly patients to live out their last days.

Palliative care can be intended for people who have terminal illnesses or even chronic pain. Again, comfort is a primary focus. But, life-prolonging treatments are often implemented in palliative care programs, unlike with hospice care.

4. When are patients eligible for either type of care?

This is another requirement that can differ from program to program. So, it’s always wise to sit down and get the information straight from the source.

With that being said, hospice care is usually provided to patients who are terminal—and generally within six months of death, if you ask any insurance company. There’s no timeline in place for palliative care, which patients can receive at any stage of an illness.

Final Thoughts

While some people often mistakenly use the terms hospice and palliative care interchangeably, you can now see that there are some fairly distinct differences between the two.

As always, it’s important to conduct your own research to gather information and determine which care option is the best for your loved one.