Palliative Care versus Hospice Care

What’s the difference between palliative care and hospice?

This might be THE most common question I get – from patients and doctors alike!

Let’s clear things up:

Palliative care is a medical specialty that is dedicated to supporting you and your caregivers so you can have the best quality of life possible. It folds into the rest of your medical care, which means that you can get support from a palliative team alongside your disease focused treatment. You qualify for palliative care support from the moment you’re diagnosed with a serious illness – no matter what your life expectancy or prognosis is! Your palliative team can help manage symptoms, provide guidance about your prognosis, and be a sounding board for difficult medical decisions like whether or not to try a feeding tube.

When you get to the point that your disease focused treatments aren’t helping you at ALL, this is typically where we make a transition into hospice care

Hospice care is specialized, holistic care that is dedicated to the quality of your life. A major difference from palliative care is that hospice care is available exclusively to people with a life expectancy of 6 months or less (remember, palliative care has no life expectancy requirement). Hospice typically provides more wraparound support than palliative care – meaning they’ll supply you with the medications and equipment you might need, and tend to see you more often than a palliative care team would. 

Palliative care can be provided in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or in your own home. Hospice care is primarily designed to provide support wherever you normally live (be that your natural home, assisted living / independent living community, or skilled nursing facility).

The point I want to emphasize is that no matter where you are on your own illness journey, there is more support out there. Your doctor most likely wants to help, but there is a decent chance they don’t know there is a difference between palliative care and hospice. But that’s ok, you can train them!

If you want to look for palliative care in your area, check out where there is a searchable provider database.

If you’re looking to find hospice groups in your area, I’d start with the Medicare hospice directory. Even if you don’t use Medicare, this is a handy way to see what hospice groups are around you AND what reviews other families have given those groups.

Hope this helps!

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