What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

Palliative care is comfort care that can be implemented with or without an end goal of being cured. Hospice is concerned with keeping patients comfortable after they decide to cease aggressive, curative treatment.

Although many people—even medical professionals—may use the terms interchangeably, palliative care and hospice are distinct.

Palliative care is an overarching umbrella term that encompasses many types of care. It can help from the first moment of a serious diagnosis. Hospice, a subset of palliative care, begins after a patient with an advanced illness decides to focus on managing comfort and addressing symptoms rather than seeking aggressive treatment.

Far from giving up, hospice involves a shift in the fight to something winnable. For example, the battle against cancer itself may be out of reach, but the fight can continue for better days, better pain relief, and more support for the patient and their family.

We can still win the battle on having better days.”

Hospice typically takes place at the patient’s home, eliminating back-and-forth hospital visits, and medications seek to control the symptoms and stress of an illness. The hospice team walks with a patient and their loved ones to the natural end of life.