Differences Between Palliative Care and Hospice

Decades ago, most people died at home, but medical advances have changed that.

Today, most Americans are in hospitals or nursing homes at the end of their lives.

Some people enter the hospital to get treated for an illness. Some may already be living in a nursing home. Increasingly, people are choosing hospice care at the end of life. Hospice can be provided in any setting—home, nursing home, assisted living facility, or inpatient hospital.

Although hospice provides a lot of support, the day-to-day care of a person dying at home is provided by family and friends. The hospice team coaches family members on how to care for the dying person and even provides respite care when caregivers need a break. Respite care can be for as short as a few hours or for as long as several weeks.

In palliative care, you do not have to give up treatment that might cure a serious illness. Palliative care can be provided along with curative treatment and may begin at the time of diagnosis. Over time, if the doctor or the palliative care team believes ongoing treatment is no longer helping, there are two possibilities. Palliative care could transition to hospice care if the doctor believes the person is likely to die within 6 months. The palliative care team could continue to help with increasing emphasis on comfort care.

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