What is the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

Palliative and hospice care are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they’re not exactly the same. When deciding the best treatment plans for you or your loved one, it’s important to understand their similarities and how they differ from one another. 

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is initiated to reduce feelings of discomfort associated with serious medical conditions. Palliative care is typically introduced if the patient is experiencing serious symptoms without them necessarily being life-threatening. Palliative care is used to treat people living with a number of conditions, particularly those experiencing cancer, heart disease, or COPD. 


It should be emphasized that palliative care usually coincides with a person’s treatment plan without resolving the entire medical condition. In other words, palliative is more about increasing a patient’s comfort level rather than treating the entire medical condition itself. However, palliative care can certainly work together with a treatment plan in certain cases. 

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is designed to ease a person’s comfort at the end of life. This is usually decided if a medical professional predicts a person’s passing within a 6-month time period. Hospice care is not about treating the condition but rather about making the final days of life as comfortable as possible. Patients may choose to receive hospice care at home or in a specialized outpatient facility. 


Palliative care may be one element of hospice care, but the two are not necessarily the same. For example, palliative care may be initiated to manage uncomfortable symptoms during a person’s final days of life. Hospice care also involves a large team consisting of medical professionals, loved ones, counselors, social workers, or spiritual mentors who assist with the end-of-life process. 

Differences Between Palliative and Hospice Care

The primary difference between palliative and hospice care is when treatment is initiated. Palliative care can be decided upon immediate diagnosis while hospice requires specific decisions concluded by a medical professional. For example, patients with cancer may receive palliative care while they’re actively being treated for their health condition. 


On the other hand, while palliative care may coincide with hospice, end-of-life management usually stops any form of curative treatment. Hospice care will only be provided within a specific time frame of 6 months and consist of a larger team covering a wide range of needs. To summarize their primary differences, palliative care can assist a person with recovery, while hospice is restricted to end-of-life care. 


As mentioned previously, palliative care can be a part of hospice. Granted, the difference will be that they won’t provide any curative treatments at this stage of life. However, medical professionals will still do everything they can to make a patient’s final days as comfortable as possible. 


Some similarities will include the medical professionals conducting these treatments. Palliative care can also be provided for any serious medical conditions that may eventually lead to hospice. While end-of-life care does have more options for where to receive treatment, palliative and hospice can both be done at a hospital. Either way, both palliative and hospice care will include a comprehensive treatment plan that supports you or your loved one’s diagnosis. 

Will Insurance Cover These Services?

Whether or not insurance covers these services depends on a patient’s specific needs. In summary, it will vary based on the medical condition, required treatments, and coverage. Generally speaking, palliative care is, unfortunately, harder to cover. Thus, if you’re receiving palliative treatments, be prepared to advocate for yourself or your loved one and work with your insurance company to come up with a financial solution. 


On the other hand, hospice care is generally more widely covered. This is especially true under Medicare if you or your loved one qualifies as a senior citizen. Medicaid will also financially support hospice care along with specific insurance plans. Either way, no matter what form of care you or your loved one is receiving, always speak with your insurer to confirm financial coverage. 

Deciding on Your Care Plan

Making end-of-life decisions for you or your loved one can be difficult. Which care plan is more beneficial will require the input of medical professionals, the patient, and their loved ones. Granted, if one chooses to receive palliative care, it should be emphasized that it’s not a terminal decision. 


Even so, many people fail to recognize the benefits of early hospice care. Research shows that early palliative and hospice care is extremely effective. A person may begin hospice care as far out as six months before their determined date of passing. 

Are you in the process of transitioning yourself or a loved one to hospice care? Our compassionate professionals at Medilodge are prepared to help you with the process. Contact us to learn more about how we can support you and your family during this difficult time. 

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