Understanding the 4 Differences Between Hospice and Palliative Care

by Sytsema under Insider

Understanding the 4 differencesWhen it comes time to research medical care options for your loved one, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide which route to take and what’s in his or her best interest. One of the more common areas of confusion is the difference between hospice and palliative care.

Hospice care and palliative care are very similar in one way: both aim to provide comfort and care for those living with a serious illness. However, there are several differences in their overall purpose, application, and practice. We can help you gain a stronger understanding of the 4 key differences, so when the time comes to make a decision, you can focus on caring for your loved one and trusting that he or she is in good hands.

1. Treatment

Hospice focuses on caring for your loved ones needs physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. The care is provided for those who have a terminal illness, most often with a life expectancy of no more than 6 months. Hospice health care providers treat the patient, not the illness, ensuring the best quality of life during your loved one’s final days. This is typically chosen when all other treatments have failed and you and your loved one are ready for treatment to transition from cure to comfort.

On the other hand, palliative care is provided for anyone with a serious illness - regardless if it’s terminal or not. This type of care can be introduced to your loved one at any stage of their illness. Unlike hospice care, curative and life-prolonging treatments can continue and be incorporated into your loved one’s treatment plan if desired.

2. Eligibility

With hospice, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have a few requirements that your loved one must meet to qualify. These include:

A primary care physician and hospice medical director must certify a reduced life expectancy.
Acceptance of comfort care measures rather than pursuing curative treatments.
Formally electing to pursue hospice care with a specific organization.

Receiving palliative care is a bit easier and doesn’t require as many specifications due to the fact that the individual may not have a terminal illness. Your loved one can simply begin by requesting a palliative care referral at any stage of their illness.

3. Location of Care

Another major difference between hospice and palliative care is the location of where your loved one will receive treatment and/or care. At hospice, patients are able to receive care wherever they feel most comfortable, whether that’s in a hospital or in the comfort of their own home. Hospice works closely with your loved one’s physician, allowing continued care from doctors and other health care providers with whom your loved one has built strong, trusting relationships.

While palliative care can be received at home, treatments are most often administered in a hospital setting, outpatient clinic, or extended care facility. Similar to hospice care, those working in palliative care work closely with your primary doctor or physician to ensure the utmost comfort for your loved one during their greatest time of need. Oftentimes, a familiar face can make a world of difference in providing peace and relief.

4. Payment Options

Before considering hospice care, it’s important to check on policy limits for payment. While hospice can be considered an all-inclusive treatment in terms of payment, insurance coverage can vary. However, costs can be primarily covered by the federal Medicare hospice benefit program or by your loved one’s Medicaid program or private insurance policy.

Palliative care is most often paid for by private medical insurance. However, Medicare Part B and some state Medicaid programs can also offer coverage for forms of palliative treatment.

It’s important to note that depending on your loved one’s diagnosis, you do not necessarily need to choose one type of care over the other. Many times, people opt for palliative care then transition to hospice. Each case is different which is why it’s good to explore your options and decide what best fits your family and your needs.


At Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services, our staff works around the clock to ensure your loved ones are cared for and comfortable during a time they need it most. If you would like assistance in helping your loved one make end-of-life decisions, contact Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services by calling 231-726-5210 or 616-842-6100, or visiting our website. We are humbled to be part of your loved one’s journey and look forward to helping you enjoy final days together.

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