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What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care?

What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care?

April 26, 2022

When considering care for yourself or a loved one with a serious or chronic illness, it can be hard to know where to start. Understanding the difference between hospice and palliative care and having informed discussions with providers and loved ones can help make the decision much easier.

Palliative care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious or chronic illness. It is based on the needs of the patient regardless of age, stage of illness or prognosis and can be an extra layer of support upon a primary treatment plan. The goal of palliative care is to maximize quality of life by improving a patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Patients experiencing pain, difficulty breathing, fatigue, anxiety, nausea and medical treatment side effects may consider palliative care to ease their symptoms.

The advantages of palliative care are that the patient is more comfortable and focus is placed on bettering some of the difficult symptoms that can come with a serious illness or disease and its treatment. There are no real disadvantages to palliative care, especially when it is provided by a trusted partner who listens to the goals of the patient.

What is hospice?

Hospice is quality, compassionate care for people with a prognosis of six months or less. Much like palliative care, it takes a team approach to providing expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support personalized to each patient’s needs and wishes. It is an alternative to continued aggressive treatment that is unlikely to result in benefit and diminishes quality of life. One of the advantages of hospice is it covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many private health insurances, and it can be provided in multiple settings such as the home, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Hospice is not a place but a philosophy of care.

Some people mistakenly see the disadvantage of hospice as having less time to spend with their loved ones, however hospice does not hasten death; it helps ensure patients are as comfortable and pain free as possible.

Finding the right fit

There are benefits to both hospice and palliative care, and both options are similar in philosophy and approach as they prioritize the patient’s comfort and quality of life. When considering the right type of post-acute care, it’s important to think about your goals and talk to your providers about pursuing a treatment approach that meets your needs.

For more information about Charter Healthcare’s hospice or palliative care programs or to refer a patient, call 909-644-4965.