Hospice and palliative care both offer compassionate care to patients with serious illnesses, but they are not interchangeable. Palliative is always a component of hospice care, but palliative care is also a separate specialty.
Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms associated with the patient’s condition, for example pain, nausea and constipation. Hospice takes a holistic approach and addresses the patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Hospice is reserved for terminally ill patients when treatment is no longer curative. Patients can receive palliative care while they continue to undergo active treatment for their condition.
While in hospice, patients receive medications necessary to relieve pain and other symptoms, but they do not receive treatment for their condition. Patients may continue to receive regular treatment while receiving palliative care.
Patients enter hospice when they have a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Patients with serious illnesses may receive palliative care at any time, regardless of their prognosis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Palliative care focuses on making the patient comfortable. Hospice, as part of treating the whole patient, also offers mental health and spiritual counseling. Hospice also offers counseling and bereavement services for family members.