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Answer Nurse: What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

hospice and palliative care


I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and am currently receiving treatment. My doctor said that I could benefit from palliative care. Is palliative care the same as hospice?

It’s a common mistake to confuse palliative care with hospice. There are many similarities between the two care philosophies, but they differ on some key characteristics.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is similar to hospice in that it provides care to those with a serious illness. The care focuses on treating the symptoms of a disease and side effects from treatments. Patients receiving palliative care continue to be seen by their physician, and the home care team delivering palliative care works in collaboration with the patient’s physician to develop a plan of care that best suites the patient’s needs.

Palliative care is also similar to hospice in that an interdisciplinary team of professionals delivers the care. Because of this, home palliative care doesn’t just provide physical care, it can offer emotional or spiritual support as well.

Why palliative care isn’t hospice.

Although palliative care shares many traits with hospice, there are some discernible differences between the two types of care.

Perhaps one of the biggest differences is eligibility. In order to be eligible for hospice, a patient is no longer allowed to receive curative treatment for their illness. However, a patient is allowed to elect palliative care while they are still receiving treatment for their disease or illness.

Another difference is the timing of when care is elected. Hospice candidates are patients that a physician believes has six months or less to live, and it focuses on delivering quality end-of-life care. Palliative care, on the other hand, can be elected at any point during a patient’s illness – beginning, middle or end. Palliative care must be referred by a physician, but timing does not factor into this decision.

Both hospice and palliative care can be beneficial for patients. Understanding the differences between the two is key to knowing which type of care is best for you.

Posted in Hospice |

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