Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

Although people often use the terms hospice care and palliative care as if they were interchangeable, they are differences. Understanding the difference between hospice and palliative care will help you choose the form of care that is best suited to your or your loved one’s needs.

home care nurse using stethoscope on elderly man

Exploring the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

While both hospice and palliative care are intended to ease suffering and provide support, they are distinct forms of care that are intended to meet different needs. To understand the difference between hospice and palliative care, it is helpful to explore the goals of these two forms of care and what sets them apart.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a very special form of comfort care that is designed to help and support people facing a life-limiting illness. Its focus is not death. Instead, hospice care is about making the most of the patient’s life by improving their comfort and their quality of life. Available only to patients who have six months or less to live if their disease follows its expected course, hospice care cannot be combined with curative care. Hospice care only becomes an option when efforts to cure the terminal condition cease. However, it’s important to note that halting treatment of the terminal condition does not mean stopping all health care. Treatment for chronic, unrelated conditions continues, and medical care for pain and other symptoms remains available.

Hospice care can be delivered in a medical facility, but it is often offered in the patient’s home, providing patients with the opportunity to retain more control of their lifestyle and their environment as they enjoy their last days in a familiar setting. This approach to care unites the patient, their family, and a multidisciplinary team of hospice professionals and trained volunteers to provide medical, emotional, and spiritual support as it becomes necessary. Members of the hospice team visit regularly, and help is only a phone call away for patients.

What Is Palliative Care?

A specialized form of care designed to help anyone struggling with a serious illness, palliative care is an invaluable resource that provides support to both the patient and their family. Palliative care is intended to improve the quality of life of people struggling with a serious illness.  The goal of palliative care is to manage the symptoms and side effects of the illness and its treatment. Palliative care is also designed to offer support for problems that the patient encounter during their illness.

Palliative care can be offered at any point in the illness’s progression. It is not dependent on the prognosis and can be implemented as soon as the patient is diagnosed. Palliative care can be delivered in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, or at home.

Hospice Care Versus Palliative Care

Both hospice and palliative care are designed to offer much-needed care and comfort to a patient. However, there are several crucial differences between them:

  • Hospice care is available only if a patient has a terminal illness and has a life expectancy of six months or less if the disease were to follow the normal progression. Palliative care can be offered to any patient with a serious illness and may be started immediately after diagnosis.
  • Hospice care begins when efforts to cure the condition have been halted. Palliative care can be delivered in conjunction with curative care.

Choosing the Right Kind of Care

Which type of care is right for you or your loved one? If a patient has a serious illness that is not deemed life-limiting, then hospice care is not yet an option, so palliative care would be the best choice. Likewise, if a patient is receiving curative care or expected to live more than six months, then hospice care is not available to them, and palliative care would better suit their needs. However, if a patient with a life-limiting illness has accepted that their condition is not responding to medical attempts to slow its progress or cure it and is ready to halt curative treatments, hospice care may be the ideal choice. Hospice professionals have the knowledge, skills, and compassion needed to support both patients and their families through this difficult time.

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At Phoenix Home Care & Hospice, our priorities are clear. We work diligently to deliver compassionate, client-focused care that improves the quality of life of those we serve. To learn more about our services, contact us online today.

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