9 Top Questions About Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Palliative care vs. hospice care: they're different, but both could improve seniors' quality of life

Could palliative care or hospice care help your older adult?

These two services are often confused, so it’s important to understand the key differences and benefits of palliative care vs. hospice care.

Depending on their health conditions, one or both of these services could significantly improve your older adult’s quality of life.

We explain the key differences and answer 9 common questions about palliative care vs. hospice care.


What is the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

Palliative care
Palliative care can be used during any stage of a serious illness. It helps seniors and family cope with the side effects of medical treatments, fears, and caregiver stress.

By relieving symptoms, palliative care often improves someone’s ability to tolerate medical treatments and their ability to recover.

The palliative care team can also help families make difficult medical decisions, taking time to discuss pros and cons. 

This gives seniors and caregivers more control because they’ll have a better understanding of treatment choices.

Hospice care
Hospice care is for patients who are ill enough for a doctor to certify that they may not live beyond 6 months. (That sounds scary, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a death sentence, get the facts here.)

The main goal is to make your older adult as comfortable as possible.

Hospice uses a combination of pain and symptom management plus emotional and spiritual support for seniors and families.

When your older adult has hospice care, visiting nurses eliminate the need to go to the doctor’s office and families can even get help with personal care tasks like bathing.

On-call help and support is also available – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


9 top questions about palliative care vs. hospice care

1. Who can get this type of care?
Palliative care: Anyone with a serious illness, no matter how long they’re expected to live.

Hospice care: Someone with an illness who may not live beyond 6 months. This doesn’t mean they’re definitely going to die, but they’re sick enough that it could be a possibility.


2. Can seniors continue to receive treatments to cure their illness?
Palliative care: Yes, seniors could receive palliative care and curative treatments at the same time

Hospice care: Generally no. Hospice focuses on treatments and medicines that relieve symptoms.


3. Is it covered by Medicare?
Palliative care: Some treatments and medications may be covered.

Hospice care: Yes, Medicare will pay for hospice care charges.


4. Is it covered by Medicaid?
Palliative care: Some treatments and medications may be covered.

Hospice care: In most U.S. states, Medicaid pays for all hospice care charges. Check with local hospice companies to make sure.

5. Is it covered by private insurance?
Palliative care: No. Palliative care services are flexible and based on what your older adult needs, so coverage will depend on what services or treatments they’re using.

Hospice care: Yes, most insurance plans cover hospice care.


6. How long can the care continue?
Palliative care: It depends on your older adult’s needs and their insurance coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, or private).

Hospice care: As long as your older adult qualifies for hospice.


7. Who provides the services?
Palliative care: Hospitals, hospice organizations, skilled nursing facilities

Hospice care: Hospice organizations, hospice programs based out of a hospital


8. Where are these services provided?
Palliative care: At home, in an assisted living community, in a skilled nursing facility, in a hospital

Hospice care: Wherever your older adult lives: at home, in an assisted living community, skilled nursing facility, or hospital. Some hospice organizations also have facilities where people can live (hospice residence) or get short-term care for severe pain or symptom management.


9. Is end-of-life care offered?
Palliative care: This depends on the provider – be sure to ask.

Hospice care: Yes, hospice organizations have end-of-life experts on staff.


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team

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  • Reply February 26, 2019

    MT Caregiver

    My father’s geriatric care manager says that since his medical conditions are under control, there is nothing palliative care can offer him. Is dementia not considered a serious illness and might he benefit from it?

    • Reply March 21, 2019


      This is a question for your father’s doctor, not a geriatric care manager. Only a qualified medical professional can provide a recommendation about palliative care that’s appropriate for your father’s current health condition.

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