What is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, palliative care and hospice care differ in several important ways for cancer patients – most notably, the stage of treatment at which they are given.

SOG_8326_13-2Both types of care focus on relieving patients’ pain and discomfort, whether caused by the cancer itself or the side effects of treatment. The goal of such care is not to cure a disease, but to improve someone’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Palliative care can take place at any stage of a patient’s illness, often beginning shortly after diagnosis and continuing through the course of treatment. Dana-Farber offers palliative care programs for adult patients as well as pediatric patients.

Hospice care is given when treatments are no longer effective and a patient is expected to live less than six months.

Palliative and hospice care are delivered by teams of professionals that may include physicians, nurses, social workers, dieticians, physical therapists, mental health counselors, and chaplains. Palliative care teams generally work in unison with clinicians who focus on disease treatment. Often, both types of care extend not only to the patient but to his or her family and caregivers as well.

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2 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice?

  1. One major difference between Palliative and Hospice care is what the insurance companies will cover. Palliative care generally allows all normal treatments allowed by your insurer on a price per service basis. Hospice care usually only pays for treatments to relieve pain and anxiety and does not pay for ”curative” care. Buyer beware here; different insurers have different definitions of what ”curative” care is. My experience with hospice was very unfortunate when they would not pay for a relatively simple life extending procedure; but would only pay to increase the pain and anti-anxiety meds to deal with the problem. This forced use to drop out of the hospice program and return to palliative care; a very gut wrenching decision. Where palliative care is provided by the same hospice staff, I see no reason to leave palliative for hospice care.

  2. One major difference between Palliative and Hospice care is what the insurance companies will cover. Palliative care generally allows all normal treatments allowed by your insurer on a price per service basis. Hospice care usually only pays for treatments to relieve pain and anxiety and does not pay for ”curative” care. Buyer beware here; different insurers have different definitions of what ”curative” care is. My experience with hospice was very unfortunate when they would not pay for a relatively simple life extending procedure; but would only pay to increase the pain and anti-anxiety meds to deal with the problem. This forced use to drop out of the hospice program and return to palliative care; a very gut wrenching decision. Where palliative care is provided by the same hospice staff, I see no reason to leave palliative for hospice care.

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