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Palliative Care and Hospice Care: What’s the Difference?

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When searching for “palliative” and “hospice” care online, many people are unaware that these are two different types of care! As you search for the best plan of care for your loved one, it is important to understand the differences and similarities between the two. So, how are they alike? What makes them different? How can you know which one is right for you?

How Are Palliative and Hospice Care Alike?

  • Care is provided by an interdisciplinary team to promote wellness for the whole patient. Knowledgeable staff work together to provide treatment and treat the patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This team usually consists of nurses, doctors, social workers, ministers, and even aromatherapy specialists.

  • Outside of the hospital, patients receive symptom management as well as holistic care. Contrary to popular belief, through palliative and hospice care, patients can receive top-quality medical treatment outside of the hospital. In fact, we often see patients live longer outside of the hospital when they are comfortable, surrounded by family, and cared for by a team of people they see consistently. 

  • Teams in both care styles seek to connect the patient with their community. This typically includes family members and friends, and any additional community resources that may prove useful to the patient. Social workers and spiritual care providers can work with local organizations, clubs, and churches to keep the patient engaged in their social lives while receiving care.

  • Both types of care can be provided outside of the hospital or emergency room. While hospice care typically takes place in the patient’s home or that of a family member, palliative care can be provided at home, in an assisted living facility, or nursing homes or other specialized facilities. Families receive strong coping support through the teams outside of the hospital.

  • Palliative and hospice care are proactive, not reactive programs. Since both of them focus on holistic well-being , team members develop relationships with the patient to keep an eye on symptoms and possible complications. Instead of reacting to a problem, like what would occur at a hospital, patients are assessed regularly to get ahead of them. The team can anticipate an infection and begin preparing antibiotics, instead of the patient going to the hospital once the infection has set in. Proactive care promotes quality of life by planning ahead instead of reacting to each problem.

  • Hope is part of the plan of care. In palliative care, there is hope that the patient will recover from their illness and go back to their normal life. In hospice care, hope is found through the quality of life achieved, the opportunities to connect with family at home, and memories to be made between now and their end of life, along with the hope they have in the afterlife.

It’s clear that palliative and hospice care have a lot in common. However, foundationally, they are quite different from each other.

What Makes These Care Styles Different?

  • Palliative and hospice care have different end goals. Palliative care seeks to cure the ailment through aggressive treatment, while providing holistic care. It is a broader term than “hospice” care. A hospice team provides holistic care with the goal of promoting quality of life as the patient nears their end of life. When a patient chooses hospice care, they have concluded that treatment is no longer an option. One type of care is not better than the other. They simply have different goals. It is important for a patient and their family to be assessed physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to decide which plan of treatment is best for them. 

  • Palliative and hospice care both have reputations. Hospice care tends to be viewed as “giving up,” while palliative care is more widely accepted. In reality, many patients try palliative care and ultimately decide that hospice is the next logical step for them. It is the next part of their journey. Hospice care patients have accepted that they are nearing their end of life. They no longer desire to receive aggressive treatment to try to cure their illness. Hospice teams come equipped to help families cope with this direction of care. Our program creates opportunities to make family memories through what we call “Final Gift.” During such events, family members are brought together to exchange what they wish to exchange and share meaningful words. Our families frequently look back on their Final Gift day with affection and appreciate the final memories they made.


When a patient chooses palliative or hospice care, they have more power over their treatment, comfort, and everyday life. One type of care is not better than the other. Palliative care seeks to cure or aggressively treat an illness. Hospice care seeks to provide soothing comfort and high quality of life as the end of life nears. Palliative and hospice care have different goals, and interdisciplinary teams take different paths to meet those goals. A knowledgeable team will thoroughly assess the patient’s needs and help them decide which direction is best for them. 

Interested in learning more about hospice or palliative care? Our approachable team is always available to answer your questions and start a conversation about caring for your loved one. Contact us here to start connecting today.

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