Is Palliative Care the Same as Hospice?

Reviewed on 1/22/2021
Palliative care and hospice care aim at providing comfort in chronic illnesses.
Palliative care and hospice care aim at providing comfort in chronic illnesses.

Palliative care and hospice care aim at providing comfort in chronic illnesses. Both aim at easing pain and helping patients cope with serious symptoms. The difference lies in the stage of disease management when they come into play. Palliative care usually begins at the time of diagnosis along with the treatment. Hospice care typically begins after the treatment of a disease has stopped or if a diagnosis is made too late; it is known that the person is not going to survive the illness.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life along with curative treatment. They treat people suffering from the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses. It can be provided at any stage of a serious illness. It can help patients manage their symptoms and complications more comfortably with chronic, long-term diseases, such as cancer, an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), kidney disease, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Palliative medicine doesn’t replace other medical treatments. Even in cases where the illness is expected to be fatal, palliative care can help the individual be as comfortable as possible and live an active life. Palliative care is designed based on the patient’s individual needs. Patients in palliative care lived longer and had a better quality of life than those who were not. The palliative care team also helps patients match treatment choices to their goals. Palliative care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, trained caregivers, and counselors along with the patient’s family.


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What is hospice care?

This is for people who are not expected to recover from their medical condition. The goal is to ease pain and help patients and their families prepare for the end of life. Palliative care is a part of hospice care. People who choose hospice care are generally expected to live for less than 6 months. Hospice care may be given at home with the help of family/friends and professional caregivers or specialized hospice centers. Hospice care involves doctors, nurses, family, trained caregivers, counselors, and social workers. They can help address various issues associated with their illness, including grief and other negative emotions. Both palliative care and hospice care offer medicines that can ease your pain.

Pain medication could be over the counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, and stronger prescription medications, such as opioid medications (Oxycodone or Morphine). There is often a concern of patients becoming addicted to opioid medications. This could be worrying if the person has had an issue with drugs or alcohol in the past. However, studies have shown that usage of opioids in these types of situations rarely cause addiction if they are taken as directed. Since there are immense pain and suffering due to their medical conditions, it is okay to take prescription opioids. Their advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Opioids can cause drowsiness, nausea, and constipation. However, these problems usually disappear as the body gets used to the medication.

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World Health Organization. Palliative Care. August 2, 2020.

National Cancer Institute. Palliative Care in Cancer.

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