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Is There a Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

Posted by James Morgan, MD
Director of Palliative Medicine at Holy Name on November 23, 2022

Morgan

Supportive Care at Holy Name encompasses hospice care and palliative care. They are very similar in that they both provide pain and symptom relief to patients with serious illness, but they are not identical. The primary difference between the two is when the care is provided and whether it’s accompanied by treatment for the illness, said Dr. James Morgan, Director of Palliative Medicine at Holy Name.

A primary objective of both hospice and palliative care is relief from symptoms and pain - physical, emotional and spiritual. Both programs provide comfort and are intended to relieve stress. Often, a team of specialists will work together to provide these comprehensive services, addressing symptoms from the disease as well as treatment side effects, even if treatment has stopped.

The main difference between hospice and palliative care is that hospice care is prescribed when two physicians have certified that the patient is expected to live less than six months, and the patient decides to forgo attempts at curing or reversing the illness. Hospice is engaged only when curative treatment has stopped. Notably, hospice care should not be withheld until a patient's last hours or days. Rather, when possible, it should be prescribed to enhance quality of life months before death. "Research has shown that hospice care frequently prolongs life once the patient is free from pain and debilitating treatment side effects," Dr. Morgan said.

Conversely, palliative care can be provided to patients at any stage of illness, at the discretion of the doctor and patient. Palliative care often accompanies treatment intended to cure the disease, and it can be stopped as the patient improves. On the other hand, if the patient declines, and the patient is hospice appropriate, then that palliative, symptom based approach still continues under hospice.

"Whether we provide palliative or hospice care, when someone has a serious illness, there is so much we can do to help them manage their pain and symptoms," Dr. Morgan said. "Our teams of compassionate specialists provide supportive care, whether it's palliative or hospice, to help improve the quality of life for patients at all stages of disease."

 
Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care