Exploring the Differences: Hospice vs. Palliative Care

Hospice vs. palliative care - What is the difference? Read this article to understand the differences between these two types of care and see which is better for you.

Haisey Home Care
February 12, 2024
x min read

Hospice care and palliative care represent two distinct approaches to providing support. These two types of care are intended for those facing serious illnesses. 

Both types of care aim to improve one's quality of life. But they differ in many aspects. 

Understanding the key differences between hospice and palliative care is very important. Not only for the patient but their families as well.  

In this "Hospice vs. palliative care" discussion, we will go through the most notable differences between these two forms of care.

Our goal is to shed light on how they cater to the unique needs of patients at different stages of an illness.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a form of medical care for people with serious illnesses.

It's specifically designed for those with terminal illnesses. In most cases, those patients have a prognosis of six months or less to live.

It's a form of compassionate comfort care. Hospice care puts the quality of life of the patient first. It provides comprehensive support for the patient and their family. 

It also focuses on managing pain and addressing emotional needs.

Hospice care can be provided:

  1. At home
  2. In an assisted living facility
  3. In a separate hospice centre 

Hospice care is usually offered when a person's condition is not improving. In those cases, curative treatment is no longer the main focus. 

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care represents a specialised type of medical care. This form of care focuses on making the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses better. 

A person can receive palliative care during any stage of illness alongside curative treatment. It doesn't matter if the illness is curable or not.

Palliative care aims to:

  • Manage symptoms
  • Improve communication between healthcare providers
  • Provide support for the patient and their family

It's provided by a team of healthcare professionals. For instance, doctors, nurses, and other specialists. These professionals work together to address the patient's physical, emotional, and practical needs. 

In some cases, palliative care can transition to hospice care. 

Hospice vs. Palliative Care

Hospice care and palliative care do have many aspects in common. Both of them focus on providing comfort and relief from pain. Both of them can be provided to patients with serious illnesses. 

But, there are some key differences between the two. These include:

  1. Goals and focus of care
  2. Scope of services
  3. Eligibility and timing
  4. Setting and delivery of care
  5. Funding and insurance coverage

Goals and Focus of Care

Hospice care and palliative care both focus on the needs of the patient and their quality of life. But there is a major difference between them.

Palliative care is all about easing pain and discomfort and reducing stress. It can be received alongside curative and therapeutic care.

In other words, it doesn't matter if the patient has a terminal illness or not. Patients with serious but curable illnesses can receive palliative care.

On the other hand, hospice care is provided when a cure is no longer possible. Hospice care is intended for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

The main objective of hospice care is to improve the quality of life of that patient.

Hospice care can include:

  • Pain and symptom management
  • Emotional support
  • Medication and medical supplies
  • Coaching for caregivers
  • Grief support

At some point in a terminal illness, the patient stops receiving treatment. This is where hospice care comes in. The patients instead recieve medicine that can make their life as comfortable as possible during this stage.

Scope of Services

Palliative care and hospice care offer different services to support patients with serious illnesses. Both types of care prioritise the needs of the patient.

Palliative care focuses on easing pain and discomfort. It also aims to reduce stress and improve the patient's quality of life. 

The patient can receive palliative care along with curative and therapeutic care. Palliative care aims to:

  1. Manage pain and symptoms
  2. Provide care coordination
  3. Assist with insurance forms
  4. Offer spiritual care

Hospice care focuses on quality of life when it becomes certain that the patient can't be cured. For example, if the patient is struggling with cancer, heart failure, or late stages of Alzheimer's disease.

It's provided when the doctor determines the patient has six months or less to live. 

Hospice care can include all the care services that come with palliative care. For instance, managing painful symptoms or providing emotional support. 

Eligibility and Timing

These two types of care also differ in eligibility and timing.

A person must meet certain criteria to be eligible for both hospice and palliative care. This includes a prognosis of a serious illness and consideration of the timing of care initiation. 

Palliative care can be pursued at any stage of illness. It doesn't matter if the condition is curable, chronic, or life-threatening.

It's beneficial for those with various conditions, such as cancer, heart failure, and dementia.

It's designed to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care provides relief from symptoms and offers emotional support.

Palliative care can last from a few weeks to a few years. It depends on many factors. 

Hospice care is specifically for those with a terminal illness. So, if you or your loved one don't have a terminal illness, you aren't eligible for hospice care.

Hospice care is comfort care that doesn't involve curative intent. It prioritises care, comfort, and quality of life. It can be provided at home, in a facility, or in a separate hospice centre.

It's important to discuss with a doctor if palliative or hospice care might be helpful for you or your loved one.

Setting and Delivery of Care

Another difference can be the delivery and setting of care.

The delivery of care in both hospice and palliative settings is focused on providing comprehensive support. The comfort of the patient and their families comes first. 

Palliative care can be provided in different settings, including:

  • Their home
  • Hospital
  • Specialised palliative care units
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient clinics

On the other hand, hospice care can be provided wherever the patient lives. This includes nursing facilities and long-term care facilities. 

Both types of care aim to bring comfort and support to patients in their preferred environment.

Many patients choose to receive care in the comfort of their own homes. They do this by applying for Home Care Packages. 

Home Care Packages are government-funded programs for elderly Australians. They are designed for those who want to receive the care they need at home. In other words, they don't have to move to a nursing home.

Home Care Packages come with many benefits for patients receiving specialised care. This holds especially true for those receiving palliative and hospice care.

Healthcare professionals come to them, allowing for maximum comfort. Moreover, the patient can be surrounded by family members and loved ones throughout this difficult time. 

Funding and Insurance Coverage

It's important to consider the financial aspect of both hospice and palliative care. 

Palliative care and hospice care have different funding sources and insurance coverage options. 

Palliative care can be covered by Medicaid,  Medicare, or private insurance policies. Note that it may vary depending on the types of services the patient receives.

Veterans have more options. Through the Department of Veterans Affairs, they may also be eligible for palliative care.

Hospice care fees are typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Medicare is the only insurance that includes pharmaceuticals as part of hospice care.

Check with your insurance provider in order to understand the coverage options. They will also inform you about potential out-of-pocket costs associated with these two types of care.

If you sign up for a Home Care Package, the funds will be covered by the government. Note that you have to be eligible for Home Care Package funding

Once approved, the funding will cover all the necessary costs associated with treatment and care. 

Knowing the Difference - Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care 

You need to understand how hospice and palliative care differ when facing a serious illness.

Hospice care focuses on providing comfort without curative intent for those with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Palliative care can be pursued at any stage of illness.

Both types of care aim to alleviate pain and symptoms. But, the timing, eligibility, and scope of services may vary.

If you're looking for a reliable care provider, Haisey Home Care offers comprehensive care solutions. We offer support services for those with high-level needs.

If you want to know more, feel free to reach out to us.