palliative care vs hospice

Palliative Care vs Hospice: Similarities and Differences


Terms palliative and hospice care are often mentioned together, which lets people think that it’s about two identical concepts. However, we shouldn’t use them interchangeably because they’re different, after all.

Although hospice and palliative care share the same goal, which is helping people reduce the symptoms of their disease and improve the quality of their last days, their philosophy and approaches are those that make the critical distinction between them.

The following post will provide further explanation of both concepts, including their primary purposes, which will help you understand the difference more efficiently.

What is Palliative Care?



Palliative care is an approach aimed at helping people diagnosed with severe illnesses who aren’t ready to give up their current treatments for curing their underlying condition. Its goal is to reduce the symptoms that the patients are feeling, and that might be preventing them from performing their daily activities.

That said, palliative care is often used as a complementary therapy that may improve the critical aspects of a patient’s physical, mental, social, and spiritual life. Palliative care cannot cure a person’s underlying disease, but it can help them cope with everyday difficulties.

Palliative care is beneficial for people that have developed some of the following illnesses:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Dementia
hospice palliative care

What is Hospice Care?



Like palliative care, hospice also provides comfort to patients with terminal illnesses, addressing the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of both patients and their family members or caregivers. Hospice is provided during the patient’s last days, and they may start with it when their prognosis is six months or less.

Hospice care often comes after palliative care when patients decide to give up their curative treatments, which often stop working, and their family wants to help them live to the fullest during their last days. Hospice covers treatments for pain relief, medical supplies, and durable medical equipment a patient needs.


Similarities Between Hospice and Palliative Care

Before we dive into the differences between hospice and palliative care, let’s discuss the concepts they share.

Multidisciplinary Approach

Both hospice and palliative care include an interdisciplinary approach, which consists of physicians and caregivers that address physical, emotional, and spiritual pain that feel both patients and their family members. That said, patients and family members can always talk to doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, chaplains, and other teams whose advice will be welcome.

Families of patients can count on the help of support groups and volunteers that will help them deal with emotional pain and understand and accept the death of their loved ones. After a patient has died, families can rely on bereavement services that will help them cope with grief and go through the difficult periods much more comfortable. Such services are free of charge and often last about a year.


Complex Symptom Relief

Both types of care share the same goal – help patients reduce the symptoms that might prevent them from performing some daily activities, improve the quality of their life, and help them live to the fullest during the most challenging period.

Stress Reduction

Stress can be significantly increased in patients who suffer from a terminal illness, and it can trigger the onset of other severe symptoms that might worsen a patient’s quality of life. Luckily, both hospice and palliative include activities and therapies that encourage stress relief and help people feel more relaxed and more satisfied.

As you can see, both types of care share the same ideas. However, some crucial aspects will imply their distinction.

Hospice vs. Palliative Care

Use and Purposes

The most distinct difference between hospice and palliative care lies in their purposes. Palliative care is a part of hospice, and it can be used together with curative treatment, while hospice is designed only for patients who have six months or less to live. Such patients are usually those that gave up their treatments or whose treatments don’t work anymore.

difference between hospice and palliative care


Place Where They’re Provided

Once enrolled in the hospice program, a patient or his/her family can choose where they want to receive care. They can opt for hospitals and nursing facilities, but they commonly choose hospice at home since it’s often the most convenient solution.

Hospice often relies on the family caregiver, who should supervise patients and help them with what they need. Family can also count on the help of the designated team of doctors and nurses, who will regularly visit the patient and his/her caregiver to check on them and provide additional assistance if needed.

As for palliative care, it is often provided in hospitals, extended care facilities, or generally in a place where a patient received his/her treatment. A patient can get this type of care at home, as well, but doctors and the experienced palliative team often suggest hospitals or outpatient clinics so that patients can continue with curative treatments much more efficiently.


Eligibility

It’s critical to remember that not all the patients are eligible for hospice care, while palliative care can usually be provided whenever a person thinks it’s right. So, how to know whether the patient is eligible for hospice?

To start with hospice care, two physicians need to certify that a patient has six months or less to live due to the underlying terminal disease that follows its usual course. Palliative care, on the other hand, can be provided at any time, no matter whether the illness is terminal or not and in which stage the patient is.

Both hospice and palliative care allow you to continue with receiving treatments, even after a short break.

Receiving Curative Treatments

A difference worth mentioning is this one, which explains the possibilities of continuing with curative treatments during hospice or palliative care.

You can continue with your curative treatments even if you’re receiving palliative care, while hospice care doesn’t allow you to do so. Hospice care is primarily aimed at making a patient comfortable during his/her last days without trying to cure their underlying condition. That said, hospice care doesn’t involve the use of life-prolonging medications.

Palliative care is convenient for those patients that are still getting life-prolonging therapies but want to mitigate the symptoms that arise from both the treatments they’re receiving (chemotherapy, for example) and the illness itself.


Eligibility

It’s critical to remember that not all the patients are eligible for hospice care, while palliative care can usually be provided whenever a person thinks it’s right. So, how to know whether the patient is eligible for hospice?

To start with hospice care, two physicians need to certify that a patient has six months or less to live due to the underlying terminal disease that follows its usual course. Palliative care, on the other hand, can be provided at any time, no matter whether the illness is terminal or not and in which stage the patient is.

Both hospice and palliative care allow you to continue with receiving treatments, even after a short break.

Receiving Curative Treatments

A difference worth mentioning is this one, which explains the possibilities of continuing with curative treatments during hospice or palliative care.

You can continue with your curative treatments even if you’re receiving palliative care, while hospice care doesn’t allow you to do so. Hospice care is primarily aimed at making a patient comfortable during his/her last days without trying to cure their underlying condition. That said, hospice care doesn’t involve the use of life-prolonging medications.

Palliative care is convenient for those patients that are still getting life-prolonging therapies but want to mitigate the symptoms that arise from both the treatments they’re receiving (chemotherapy, for example) and the illness itself.


Payment Methods

Another critical difference between hospice and palliative care lies in payment methods. The costs of hospice care are entirely covered by Medicare, Medi-Cal, Medicaid, or appropriate private insurance, while palliative care payment is structured a bit differently.

Medicare Part B and Medicaid cover most of the palliative care costs, but you may expect to be charged co-payments for some treatments and medications that don’t form part of the policies. Some private insurance plans may also be applied to this type of care, but you should check everything with your carrier, who’ll explain to you more about the co-payments and other charges that may be included.

palliative care versus hospice

Benefits of Hospice and Palliative Care

Neither hospice nor palliative care is obligatory for a terminally ill patient, but the truth is that they can help reduce the pain, stress, and similar symptoms that come as a result of the underlying condition. Apart from improving a patient’s quality of life, both therapies can help families overcome a difficult period and understand and accept what comes after it.

Some of the advantages brought by palliative and hospice care include:

  • Around the clock availability: Both hospice and palliative care offer a 24/7 medical assistance, making sure a patient and his/her caregiver get help on time. This is particularly convenient for patients that choose hospice at home since they can rely on a nurse-on-call who can visit them at any time during day and night.
  • Emotional support: Getting emotional support is essential for both patients and their families, who are facing numerous difficulties, both physical and emotional. Hospice and palliative care centers will offer them the opportunity to talk to social workers, support groups, and counselors that will provide them with a useful piece of advice regarding end-of-life planning and similar questions.
  • Practical help: Almost every center for hospice and palliative includes volunteer programs, which are aimed at helping caregivers with chores, shopping, running errands, and other things that could facilitate a caregiver’s work.
  • Respite care: Apart from helping caregivers with chores and other household-related tasks, volunteers will also allow them to take a break for a few hours. Depending on your insurance, you may rely on respite care for up to five days.
  • Holistic approach: Both types of care use a holistic approach in helping patients, which means that their teams usually consist of physicians, nurses, social workers, support groups, spiritual counselors, pharmacists, and bereavement counselors. All of them will do their best to help patients and their families improve their social, spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects.