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The Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

The Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care


Palliative care is a type of care for people who have a serious illness. It can help you manage symptoms, pain, or side effects from treatment. It can also help you cope with your feelings about living with a serious illness.

Hospice is for people who are near the end of their life. It provides medical treatment to relieve symptoms. The goal is to keep you comfortable, not to try to cure your disease. Hospice care also offers emotional help and spiritual support.

How they are different

Here's how palliative and hospice care are different.

Kinds of care provided

  • Palliative care: This is treatment to help you feel better in body, mind, and spirit while doctors also treat your illness. It can include care such as pain relief, counseling, and nutrition advice. It can also include helping you and those close to you to:
    • Understand your illness better.
    • Talk more openly about your feelings.
    • Decide what treatment you want or don't want.
    • Communicate better with your doctors, nurses, and each other.
  • Hospice care: This is a type of palliative care. But it's for people who are near the end of life. The goal is to help you feel better and get the most out of the time you have left. But you no longer get treatment to try to cure your illness.

When care happens

  • Palliative care: This care can happen at any time during a serious illness. You don't have to be near death to get this care.
  • Hospice care: In most cases, you can choose hospice care when your doctor believes that you have no more than about 6 months to live.

Where care is provided

  • Palliative care: This type of care can be provided wherever you're being treated for your illness. You can get it in the hospital, at your doctor's office, in a nursing home, and even in your home.
  • Hospice care: Most hospice care is done in the place the person calls "home." This is often the person's home. But it could also be a place like a nursing home or retirement center. And hospice care may also be given in hospice centers, hospitals, or other places.

Care providers

  • Palliative care: There are doctors and nurses who specialize in this field. But your own doctor may also provide some of this care. And there are many other types of experts who may help you, like social workers, counselors, therapists, and nutrition experts.
  • Hospice care: In hospitals, hospice centers, and other facilities, care is provided by doctors, nurses, and others who specialize in hospice care. In the home, a family member is usually the main caregiver. But the family member gets help from care experts who are on call 24 hours a day.

Paying for care

  • Palliative care: Most health insurance covers palliative care. But the amount of coverage may vary.
  • Hospice care: Health insurance usually covers hospice care. It's also covered by Medicare and Medicaid. You are eligible for hospice care regardless of your ability to pay.

Related Information


Current as of: March 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
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Learn more about palliative medicine at St. Luke's