Hospice Care and Palliative Care: Is There a Difference?

    HospicePalliative Because these two terms are often erroneously used interchangeably, people think they are the same thing. That hospice care is no different than palliative care.  In fact, there are several important differences. “I sometimes receive calls from family members upset that their loved one’s physician has recommended palliative care,” explains Colorado Geriatric Care Manager, Kirsten Hartman. “They equate that with a hospice referral and assume it means end of life. That often isn’t the case.”


So what are the differences between hospice care and palliative care?

ü        To be eligible for hospice, a patient must have a life expectancy of six months or less if their disease follows its natural course. Palliative care has no such restriction. It can be used for chronic illnesses like congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but it doesn’t have to be just for the last six months of the disease.

ü         Patients admitted to hospice are typically no longer seeking curative measures. They are looking for comfort measures to help with pain and symptom management. Palliative care patients are often seeking aggressive treatments. They may be receiving chemotherapy or other curative measures to help them overcome their disease.

ü         Hospice care can be delivered in whatever setting a patient calls home or in a hospice center. Access to palliative care is still more restricted. It is typically limited to hospital or outpatient clinic settings.

ü         Funding is another place where these two programs are different. Medicare and almost all insurance companies pay for hospice care. For palliative care, insurance coverage is questionable. Pre-authorizations are sometimes turned down because not all insurance providers understand the role of palliative care in treating an illness or disease.

ü         Some hospice organizations also offer palliative care programs. Because hospice providers are experts at pain management and symptom control, they can offer palliative care patients considerable support in these two areas.

     If you need help deciding between the two programs for a loved one, consult your primary care physician or a local geriatric care manager. They can help you to better understand your options.


     Do you or a loved one live with a chronic illness? Has your physician recommended palliative care to help with pain or symptom management?


     From personal care needs and case management to guardianship concerns, Seniors in Transition provides consulting services to help families turn frustrating health care problems into quality, affordable solutions. Seniors in Transition is here to help families in the Fort Collins, CO and Loveland, CO areas. Visit our website at www.seniorsintrans.com or call Kirsten Hartman at 970.204.6977, today.


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