Palliative Care vs Hospice

End of life illustration

Table of Contents

There are numerous people in the US who end up passing away in hospitals or nursing homes after receiving care that doesn’t fit what they requested. This is why it’s so important for people to plan their end-of-life care early on, and also to let their loved ones and family members know about what types of treatments they’re looking to get in the future, regarding their long-term care.


When it comes to palliative treatments and hospice care, the main goal for medical professionals is to help their patients alleviate the symptoms of an illness and potentially the pain. Nevertheless, there are plenty of differences between palliative care and hospice care, especially regarding the ultimate goals of each type of care as well as the prognosis for the patient’s future. 


With palliative care, patients generally receive care and comfort throughout their medical treatments while looking for a cure for their illness. 


Meanwhile, although hospice care also means patients receive comfort and care, they’re not pursuing any medical treatments that can cure their illness. This can be either because there aren’t any viable options that can provide a cure for the illness, or because the patient has decided that the benefits of available options don’t outweigh the associated risks. 


Although there are several similarities with both types of care options, there are still some differences.

Palliative Care and Hospice Care – Overview

Patients receive comfortable and compassionate care when it comes to palliative care. This type of care aims to relieve the patients from some of the symptoms of their illness along with the stress that comes along with such illness. Palliative care is available to people when they receive a diagnosis for a serious illness, and it can be pursued immediately, during the patient’s treatments, or toward the end of their life.


On the other hand, hospice care is meant for people facing a terminal illness who aren’t pursuing any treatments to help or cure them. These patients generally have a shorter lifespan, and hospice care provides them with comfortable and compassionate care.

What is Palliative Care?

A number of patients can benefit from palliative treatment, ranging from diagnoses such as cancer to heart failure, kidney disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and more. The medical care that patients receive is supposed to help alleviate the symptoms of the illness and provide a treatment plan for it.

What is Hospice Care?

Patients who have up to six months to live and aren’t pursuing any type of life-saving medical treatments for their terminal illness benefit from hospice care. This type of care provides patients with comfort, care, and high quality of life, and support for both the patient and their loved ones during the emotional time.

walking down the forest

Palliative Care:

What are the benefits of palliative care?

The main goal of palliative care is to provide patients with a higher quality of life despite their illness. It’s a great option for a number of diagnoses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, cancer, and more. This is a helpful and beneficial type of care throughout any stage of a diagnosis. It’s also the best possible option patients can pursue after receiving a diagnosis.


Medical professionals from palliative care can help their patients navigate the healthcare system and help in difficult decisions regarding medical treatments. They also help in alleviating the symptoms and improving their quality of life and can connect patients to a number of organized services.

Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care can be provided to patients in nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, along with specialist clinics or the patient’s home. Palliative care is also covered by certain private insurance policies, and in some cases, Medicare or Medicaid. Nevertheless, it’s best to talk to the insurance provider if the patient had any life insurance questions for this type of care.


The patient works with a palliative care team through the treatment process. The palliative care team is made up of different medical professionals ranging from palliative care specialists, nurses, chaplains, and nutritionists, and social workers. The entire team works with the patient, their loved ones, and family members and also provides them with medical, social, emotional, or practical support. 


The type of care a patient receives depends on the diagnosis, and that’s also what decides the people who will be making up the palliative care team. To pursue this type of care, patients have to be referred to a palliative care specialist by their doctor or to ask for a referral.

Palliative Treatment

Patients can be receiving regular medical treatments that are helping them deal with a serious illness while in palliative careThat’s because palliative care is available to people while they’re still receiving regular medical treatments, and it becomes available as soon as a patient receives a diagnosis.

Furthermore, should the palliative care team or even the patient’s regular healthcare provider find the patient isn’t responding to the treatments as well as intended, which means the treatment isn’t helping the patient, both parties can figure out other treatment options.


The palliative therapy doctors can also recommend hospice care for the patient, if the team believes the patient is approaching the end of their life, as well as continue supporting the patient, with care focused more on comfort.


In chemotherapy treatments, patients receive drugs that can target and eliminate any cancer cells in their bodies. It’s a popular treatment for cancer due to its speed and effectiveness because it works in combating and curbing the growth of cancer cells. When paired with palliative care, patients can reduce their chemotherapy symptoms while the treatments are working to shrink their cancer. This type of care can improve their quality of life and even prolong it.


Another treatment for shrinking cancer, slowing down growth and curbing symptoms, which, when paired with palliative care, can be quite beneficial to patients, is radiotherapy. With palliative care throughout radiotherapy, patients can get help in alleviating their bone pain, treating many blockages or pressures, and other cancer symptoms.

Hormone Therapy

This type of therapy is used to stop the excessive growth of cancer cells in a patient’s body. Throughout it, patients can also pursue palliative care, which can help in alleviating symptoms as well as prolonging their lives.

Targeted Cancer Drugs

With targeted cancer drugs, patients are receiving medications that can target the specific molecules inside their cells. Those molecules are what’s helping cancer grow, and targeting them, can slow the growth. Paired with palliative care, patients can alleviate the symptoms of the treatment.

Radiofrequency Ablation

This type of treatment helps cancer patients shrink the tumors in their bodies. Then, with palliative care, they’re able to improve their motor functional disorders, which are symptomatic of some types of cancer, as well as alleviate any pain.


Some types of cancer require surgery – either to help the patient alleviate any symptoms, or completely remove the growth. With the help of palliative care throughout, patients can improve their quality of life and alleviate any symptoms.

Palliative Treatment – Side Effects

Most people are rightfully worried about all the different side effects that can come with a diagnosis. Fortunately, palliative care is there to help all patients improve their lives and manage any side effects that either come from the diagnosis or the medical treatments


The side effects can range from pain, infections, or fatigue, to anxiety and stress related to future outcomes. But the palliative care team can help patients alleviate any of them, and navigate the disease successfully.

hospice care

Hospice Care:

What Are The Benefits of Hospice Care?

There comes a time in some patients’ lives when they’re no longer looking to get curative treatments for a serious illness, or when medical treatments are no longer available. This is when those patients can choose to go into hospice care.


The patients that are looking to go into hospice care have an understanding of their illness, which isn’t responsive to medical treatments any longer. There’s nothing left that those patients can do, to either cure the illness or slow its progress.


While hospice care is similar to palliative care, because both options provide patients with comfort care along with support for the loved ones and family of the patient, the biggest difference is the patient’s own choices regarding their medical treatments. With hospice care, the patient is actively choosing not to pursue any other medical treatments, either because they’re no longer an option, or the patient doesn’t see a benefit.


Patients with a terminal diagnosis can receive hospice care once their doctor evaluates their end-of-life timeline, which can be up to six months. However, patients should also discuss with their healthcare providers what options they have when it comes to hospice care


Sometimes, patients don’t realize how many benefits they’ll receive with the help of hospice care, as pursuing this care as early as possible can give them more time they can spend with their families.

Where Is Hospice Care Provided?

is provided in two types of settings. Patients can receive hospice care in their nursing home, a hospital, or a hospice center, or their own home. Then, the hospice care team will work with the patient to alleviate any symptoms of their illness. The hospice care team is filled with people who have special skills; people such as nurses, doctors, volunteers, social workers, spiritual advisers, and more. Additionally, everyone on the team also works with the patient’s family in order to provide emotional support.

Common Myths About Hospice Care

hospice during covid-19

Hospice Care Doesn’t Improve a Patient’s Life

Although people entering hospice care have a diagnosis of a terminal illness, which might not have an available cure, this treatment is still beneficial to the remainder of a patient’s life. With hospice care, the patient can live out their life with a minimal amount of pain, discomfort, or stress.

Hospice Care is For Those Who Give Up

Plenty of people believe that hospice care is only for people that have reached the end of their lives, but that’s not quite true. This type of care is simply compassionate and comfortable care for patients with terminal illnesses. It provides people with medical care and pain management that can improve their last days.

Hospice Care Only Lasts a Few Days

The individual cases greatly vary, with the average length of hospice care around the country being a little over 10 weeks, while the median length is over 3 weeks, but it’s usually not only a few days.

Hospice and Palliative Care During COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a bit more difficult to find care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or hospitals for patients. That’s only because every facility updates its services and policies, in accordance with the state department of health and CDC guidelines, to protect the safety and health of their patients and staff. To get information about different facilities, it’s best to reach out and contact each one that interests the patient.

Difference Between Palliative Care And Hospice:

Palliative Care Hospice Care
Goals Curing the patient's illness or prolonging their life. Managing their symptoms and pain levels. Managing symptoms and pain levels for patients at the end of their lives. Improving the quality of life.
Eligibility Diagnosis of a serious illness that makes life difficult to manage for the patient. Can be pursued at any stage of life, and illness doesn't have to be life-limiting. The life expectancy is up to six months, as determined by a medical professional. Can be pursued after a diagnosis and doctor's evaluation.
Choice Patients choose palliative care to ease the symptoms of their illness, such as pain, fatigue, side effects from medications, or even stress. Patients choose hospice care when no longer looking to pursue cures or difficult treatments for their illness, which aren't guaranteed to extend or improve their lives.
Location Palliative care is provided in hospitals or other facilities that have advanced equipment and solutions. Hospice care is provided at the patient’s own home, or alternatively, in a nursing home.

When Should I Start End Of Life Care?

Deciding between hospice care and palliative care is one of the most difficult decisions for patients, and it’s always best to discuss and consult with a doctor early on regarding both options. Both of these types of care are very beneficial to patients if they’re pursued early, but the ultimate choice depends on several factors.


Once a patient has received the diagnosis of a serious life-limiting illness, one that can easily interrupt their daily life, they have the option to go into palliative care. However, hospice care only becomes available to patients after a doctor has evaluated their end-of-life timeline and recommends them to hospice care professionals.


To make the decision process a bit easier for patients, they should always discuss with their medical provider, which can also help them understand the prognosis for the diagnosis. Then, the patient needs to decide whether they’re going to pursue further medical treatments, or stop and receive hospice care. Finally, they can decide where they’d like to receive the care, but the available options can depend on their own location as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I receiving the best medical treatment for the diagnosis?

Every palliative care team is concerned both about the patient’s illness, as well as the patient themselves. The teams understand that every patient is concerned about their life, what option they should pursue regarding treatment, and situations where they’re not sure how to proceed. That’s why they take everything into consideration when creating a treatment plan, which will always be the best one for the patient, and fit their needs and wishes.

Can I visit my personal doctor while receiving care?

Both hospice care and palliative care teams coordinate their treatments and care with your doctor, and of course, you’re always able to visit your doctor when you’d like or need to. The team can also help you navigate the often complicated healthcare system too.

Are palliative care and hospice care covered by insurance?

This depends on the insurance plan a person has, the treatments they receive, as well as the diagnosis itself. When it comes to palliative care, it can sometimes be covered by Medicare or private insurance, however, the care treatments are separately billed. When it comes to hospice care, it’s also sometimes covered by private insurance or Medicare. However, with both options, it’s always best to consult with the health insurance provider to learn more about each type of coverage they provide.