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Hospice vs. Palliative Care

What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between hospice and palliative (advanced illness) care? This is a common question for patients and families who are coping with serious illness.

Ultimately, the goals of both hospice and advanced illness or palliative care are similar: to relieve symptoms of a serious illness, provide comfort from pain and improve quality of life for the whole family. Yet how these goals are achieved and when a person is eligible for each type of care can be different.

Mother and Daughter


Patients in both hospice and palliative care have similar diagnoses. Frequent illnesses include cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, kidney disease, liver disease, dementia, stroke and many others.

Yet where you are in the course of your illness makes all the difference in whether you’re eligible for hospice or palliative care. In order to be eligible for hospice, a doctor must certify that, if the illness runs its natural course, death could be expected in six months or fewer. The individual must also not be receiving curative treatment, such as chemotherapy.

On the other hand, palliative care can be used anytime during the course of a serious illness—starting with the diagnosis—and patients can be receiving curative treatment for their illness. 

On the Road of Life

When to consider palliative or hospice care

Healthy Person Illness Terminal Illness Death Preventative Care Curative Care Hospice Care Advanced Illness Caree
HEA L THY PERS O N ILLNESS TERMINAL ILLNESS DE A TH Preventative Care Curative Care Hospice Care A dvanced Illness Care

Services Provided

One of the biggest differences between hospice and advanced illness or palliative care is what specific services are provided. The hallmark of hospice care is its interdisciplinary, comprehensive approach. The patient and family has a whole team of professionals assisting them on a regular basis, which can include a nurse, hospice aide, the patient’s primary care doctor, hospice doctor, social worker, chaplain, volunteer and grief counselor.

The “Circle of Care” image (right) demonstrates this hospice team approach. Patients are seen frequently by different members of the team, sometimes multiple times per week, and sometimes 24/7, as at Beacon Place and the Hospice Home, AuthoraCare’s inpatient hospice facilities.

Yet advanced illness or palliative care is less comprehensive and more consultative in nature. After the patient’s health care provider requests a palliative care consultation, one of AuthoraCare’s nurse practitioners meets with the patient to assess the symptoms of their serious illness, whether it is pain, nausea, coughing, delirium or anxiety. The practitioner then recommends medications or therapies to treat those symptoms. The palliative care team also helps the patient and family better understand the illness, review advance directives and make choices for their future health care decisions.

PATIENT Family HospicePhysician AttendingPhysician Volunteers BereavementCounselor RegisteredNurse SocialWorker HospiceAide Chaplain Friends

Where They are Similar

Whether a person is receiving hospice or palliative (advanced illness) care, AuthoraCare meets patients wherever they call “home” — in private residences, retirement communities or nursing homes. Moreover, both palliative and hospice care are usually covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, though the way they are billed can differ.