When Is It Time for Hospice or Palliative Care


Resident and staff gardening togetherWhat Is Hospice?

Hospice is end-of-life care that focuses primarily on the quality of life and comfort of the patient. For those with a diagnosed illness and limited life expectancy, hospice provides comfort and support to the individual and their families. A patient is moved to hospice care when they decide to stop treatment for an illness and are expected to have less than six months to live. Hospice care is usually provided by interdisciplinary teams comprised of doctors, nurses, social workers, care partners, volunteers and chaplains. Once hospice care begins, treatment for the illness ends and care transitions to symptom relief and management. Hospice also provides care, comfort and support for the family and caregivers of the individual. Typically, all hospice care is covered by Medicare and supplemented by the hospice company (NIA, 2021).

What Does Hospice Cover?

  • Items and services needed for pain relief and symptom management
  • Medical, nursing, and social services
  • Prescriptions for pain management
  • Durable medical equipment for pain relief and symptom management
  • Aide services
  • Spiritual and grief services for the individual and their family
  • Respite care (for caregivers)

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is specialized care that focuses on the comfort of individuals living with a serious chronic illness. Palliative care patients still receive medical care for their illness, as well as additional aid designed to reduce symptoms and guidance concerning treatment options related to their illness. A palliative care team is usually an interdisciplinary team comprised of the patient’s physicians, a nurse, social worker, nutritionist and chaplain. Palliative care can take place wherever an individual resides, whether their home, apartment, assisted living community, a hospital or skilled nursing community (NIA, 2021).

What Does Palliative Care Cover?

  • Pain and symptom management of chronic illness
  • Care coordination with the existing care team
  • Development of a care plan
  • Assistance with medical decisions
  • Assistance with advanced planning
  • Spiritual care

What Are the Differences Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

Question Hospice Palliative Care
Who is eligible? Those with a chronic illness who are expected to have less than six months to live Individuals at any stage of illness
What kind of care is provided? Symptom management of the chronic illness to improve quality of life Symptom management is the goal of palliative care; can be combined with therapeutic care
Does curative medical treatment continue? No,  curative treatments are discontinued with hospice; treatment of conditions not related to the primary illness can be started and/or continued Yes, individuals can continue medical treatment and receive palliative care for symptom management
Does Medicare pay? Yes, when recommended by a physician Yes, it covers the medical portions (clinicians)
Does supplemental insurance pay? May cover additional services Yes, Medi-Cal (Medicaid) and private insurers may cover medical portions (check with your insurer)
How long does care last? As long as the treating physician believes a patient has six months or less to live Can be as long as the patient needs symptom management
Where are these types of care provided? Anywhere a patient calls home:
 -  Hospital
 -  Skilled nursing community
 -  A patient’s home
 -  Residential care
 -  Specialized clinics
Anywhere a patient calls home:
 -  Hospital
 -  Skilled nursing community
 -  A patient’s home
 -  Residential care
 -  Specialized clinics

What Is the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

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