Stony Brook Medicine Health News
Palliative Care Vs Hospice

Palliative Care and Hospice: Goals, Similarities and Differences

Palliative care and hospice are two forms of medical care designed to provide comfort and support people with serious illnesses and their respective families.

While they share similarities, they each serve a distinct role depending on where the person is in the trajectory of their illness. Understanding the difference between these two forms of care can help patients and their families make informed decisions about their healthcare options.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on relieving the physical, psychological and spiritual symptoms and stress associated with serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

This type of care is appropriate at any age and at any stage of illness. It can be used to manage both short-term and long-term illnesses and is provided alongside other treatments. Palliative care is typically offered at hospitals and health centers, as well as in the outpatient and home settings.

Key benefits of palliative care include:

  • Improve quality of life for both the patient and their family by addressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs related to serious illness.
  • Assess and manage symptoms, such as pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite and others.
  • Facilitate conversations about the patient’s illness, including understanding their treatment options and assisting with advance care planning.

When to Consider Palliative Care

If you or a loved one is living with a serious illness and experiencing symptoms that impact your/their ability to function, consider palliative care.

Palliative care can be requested at any point during an illness, including while you are receiving curative treatment or disease-modifying therapies. If your doctor has not suggested adding palliative care to your treatment plan, you can still ask for it to help you cope with a serious illness.  

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a form of end-of-life care that focuses on providing comfort and support to people with terminal illnesses. It’s typically provided in the final months of life and emphasizes quality of life, symptom relive and preserving dignity. The hospice benefit is covered by most patient’s health insurances. Patients without the hospice benefit may also qualify for charity hospice. 

Unlike palliative care, hospice care is provided when curative treatment is no longer effective or desired, and the patient has a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Hospice care can be delivered in different settings, most commonly in the patient’s home, but also in a hospice facility or hospital, depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.

The purpose of hospice care includes:

  • Managing symptoms at end of life
  • Supporting the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families
  • Maximizing time at home for patients near the end of life, if they choose to do hospice at home
  • Providing bereavement support after death

When to Consider Hospice Care

While palliative care can be utilized at any stage of an illness, hospice care is appropriate for people with a terminal illness who have decided to shift the focus of care from cure to comfort during the final stages of life. 

At Stony Brook Medicine, our Palliative Care Service team is dedicated to providing expert care and support to patients with serious illnesses and their families, ensuring compassionate and comprehensive care across our community and region. For more information about our palliative care services, call 631-444-2292.

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.