End of life caregiving: Hospice care versus palliative care

As a caregiver for a loved one who is dying, you may have to not necessarily choose between hospice and palliative care, but most of all what and how much of each the person will require to make a smoothest transition possible to the great unknown. Hospice and palliative care are similar in that medications, day-to-day care, hospital equipment supplies, bereavement counseling, and symptom treatment are administered through a single program; and they are different in terms of location, timing, payment, and eligibility for services.


Hospice care


Palliative care


It provides comfort and support for terminally ill patients expected to live 6 months or less. It focuses on symptom management, comfort, dignity, and the quality of life of patients in their own home so they can spend their last days surrounded by their loved ones. It is also available to nursing home residents. Bereavement resources, support groups, counseling, and workshops for the relatives of the patient – following his o her death – are fundamental elements of hospice care. It doesn’t extend life or hastens death, and choosing it is not tantamount to giving up; on the contrary, it allows patient and family to pay more attention to the emotional and spiritual aspects of care, as opposed to the medical issues.


It identifies and addresses physical, emotional, practical, or spiritual needs of a terminally patient and his/her family in order to lessen the burden on the caregiver. It includes such services as:

·         Curative or Life-Prolonging Treatments.

·         Relief of Physical Suffering.

·         Attention to Emotional Needs.

·         Communication.

·         Guarantee of 24/7 Access to Help.

·         Support for the Bereaved Family.

It can be administered to any patient in any part of a hospital, nursing home, or at home.


A patient’s hospice care program, supervised by a team of hospice professionals, takes place at home. Hospice often relies on the caregiver, complemented by a visiting hospice nurse. Hospice care can be provided round-the-clock in a nursing home, but a specially-equipped hospice facility or a hospital may be required on occasion.

Palliative care can be administered at home, but it more commonly occurs in an institution such as a hospital, extended care facility, nursing home, or any other facility that is associated with a palliative care team – which includes doctors, nurses, and other professional medical caregivers.


A patient must usually have to be considered to have 6 months or less to live to qualify for the majority of hospice care programs, or to receive insurance-covered hospice benefits.

It can be administered to any patient at any time, and stage of illness – terminal or otherwise – without restriction.


Some hospice programs offer subsidized care for financially-challenged individuals, or for patients not covered under their own insurance. Many hospice programs are covered by Medicare.


It is likely that it is covered by your regular medical insurance, though it is worth noting that each item is billed separately, much like regular hospital and doctor visits. In outpatient palliative care, prescriptions are billed separately and are only covered as provided by your regular insurance. In-patient care however, often covers prescription charges.


It mainly revolves around relieving the symptoms and side effects related to the disease rather than dealing with the disease itself. As a result, patients can enjoy the time that they have left by forgoing extensive life-prolonging treatment. Some hospice care programs do provide life-prolonging treatments.

Its purpose is to provide comfort at any stage of both chronic and terminal diseases. There is no expectation that life-prolonging therapies will be avoided. Some palliative care programs do focus mostly on end-of-life caregiving.


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