The Difference Between Palliative and Hospice Care

Long Island Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyers

Palliative care and hospice care can provide comfort to seriously ill patients and patients who have received a prognosis of imminent death.
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Palliative care and hospice care can provide comfort to seriously ill patients and patients who have received a prognosis of imminent death. Each type of care is intended to improve the quality of life among patients who receive it. Many people use the terms hospice care and palliative care interchangeably, but there are important distinctions. Here are the differences between palliative and hospice care.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is comfort care generally available for patients who have a terminal illness diagnosis and a prognosis of six months or less to live. Their doctor must report to hospice care that the patient will not recover from their disease and will die if the disease runs its course as expected.

A patient may, for instance, decide to forgo further medical treatments for an inoperable brain tumor. In seeking hospice care, the individual opts against enduring certain medical procedures that would leave them unable to enjoy treasured quality time with loved ones.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is like hospice care in that it is intended to provide comfort to seriously ill patients. However, palliative care treats patients who still receive medical intervention, unlike hospice care. Patients can request palliative care at any stage of their illness, from diagnosis until curative treatment, not exclusively at end of life. For example, someone living with Stage 1 cancer may seek palliative care, even as they undergo treatments such as chemotherapy.

This type of care may include any, or all, of the following:

  • Pain-relieving medications and other drugs that can help ease such symptoms as nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia
  • Support in talking through and understanding the options and goals for one’s medical care
  • Teaching of self-care techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Emotional and spiritual support for the patient as well as their family members
  • Help in discussing and weighing difficult decisions about end-of-life treatment if needed
  • Assistance in connecting with appropriate health care providers and specialists

Who Is Eligible for Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Hospice care and palliative care target different types of patients. The eligibility requirements for either type of care differ from each other.

Hospice care requires two physicians who treated the patient to certify that the patient has fewer than six months to live and that their condition is unlikely to improve with further medical intervention. Primary care doctors may be among the two physicians providing an opinion, but this is not necessarily required.

Palliative care starts at the option of the patient and their doctor at any stage of the illness. Patients who receive palliative care do not need to be near the end of their lives. Patients who no longer benefit from curative treatments or have a limited ability to care for themselves may choose to pursue palliative care.

Who Will Provide the Care I Receive?

Hospice Care

Patients in hospice care will receive comfort care from doctors and nurses who specialize in the field.

Palliative Care

Palliative care patients will receive care from doctors and nurses along with various experts in palliative care, including therapists, counselors, social workers, and nutritionists.

Where Do I Receive Care?

Hospice Care

A patient may receive hospice care at home, at an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or in the hospital.

Palliative Care

In New York, palliative care is available in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or your own home by a home care agency.

Paying for Care

Determining who pays for hospice or palliative care is an important part of long-term care planning. Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance may pay for both hospice care and palliative care to some extent. In New York, a hospice program is available through Medicaid, Medicare, private payment, and some health insurers to persons who have a medical prognosis of six or fewer months to live if the terminal illness runs its normal course. Palliative care does not have such a specific program, but most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover medical services that are considered palliative care.

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