Both provide comfort to patients, but they’re very different kinds of care.
There are many misconceptions about palliative care—and confusing it with hospice is one of them.
“I think patients often have concerns about palliative care,” says Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, palliative care specialist at Mount Sinai in New York City. “They think it means that they’re at the end of their lives and that’s absolutely not true.”
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a group of specialized medical services that help patients with serious, yet curable or treatable, conditions (such as heart failure, cancer, or Parkinson’s disease) get relief from their symptoms. Palliative care can help patients improve their quality of life and enhance the effectiveness of their treatment. Learn more about palliative care here.
“Palliative care is for any age at any stage—and people who get palliative care will live years and years, and many people who get palliative care will actually be cured,” says Dr. Goldstein.
So, What Is Hospice?
Hospice is also a specialized type of medical care, but unlike palliative care, it’s offered to an individual who is in the late stages of a terminal illness. Hospice often begins when treatments are felt to be no longer helpful, and the patient and care team decide to focus on quality of life.
The goal of hospice is to provide comfort to the patient by managing their symptoms in a place they call “home” or choose to spend the remainder of their life.
Both hospice and palliative care also provide support to caregivers who are coping with their loved one’s illness.
Interested in getting palliative care? Talk to your doctor, and see here to learn more about how to get palliative care for yourself or your loved one.
Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, is a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
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So a common misconception is that
palliative care and hospice are the same,
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when actually they're very different.
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The medications that we're using for
patients undergoing palliative care
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are the same medications that we're
using for patients undergoing hospice.
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However, the kinds of medical
care they get may be different.
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Palliative care is for patients who are
undergoing life-sustaining treatments or
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treatments aimed at curing their disease.
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Hospice is for
patients who are at the end of life,
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who may have a very short prognosis,
often of six months or less, and
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whose goal is to focus only on comfort and
quality at the end of their lives.
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Palliative care begins at the time
a patient is diagnosed with a serious
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Hospice is after patients have gotten
a long period of treatment and
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no longer have options to prolong life or
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Patients who qualify for
palliative care need a serious illness and
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need either symptom control or
help understanding their illness.
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Patients with hospice, however,
must have very advanced illness
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with a life expectancy often
of six months or less.
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And must either not have any other
treatments available to them or
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no longer want to pursue treatments aimed
at curing or prolonging their life.
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But whether we're talking about hospice or
palliative care, both services can improve
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quality of life and symptom control for
patients and families.
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To make sure that every day that you
live is the best it possibly can be.
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What Are Hospice and Palliative Care? Bethesda, MD. National Institute on Aging. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-palliative-care-and-hospice-care)
Primary Palliative Care. Waltham, MA. UpToDate, 2020 (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/primary-palliative-care)
Pain and Palliative Care. Bethesda, MD. National Institutes of Health Clinical Care. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/palliativecare/hospice_care.html)
Hospice: Philosophy of care and appropriate utilization in the United States. Waltham, MA. UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hospice-philosophy-of-care-and-appropriate-utilization-in-the-united-states)