Palliative Care VS Hospice – What’s The Difference?

They both offer care and comfort for people, but what is the difference between palliative care and hospice? This guide will explain.

If you get palliative care and hospice mixed up – you aren’t alone. There are so many similarities that it’s tough to tell them apart sometimes. This guide is going to lay out all the ways they are similar and what sets them apart. You’ll never get confused again.

This guide is especially important if you want to become a hospice nurse.

How Palliative Care And Hospice Are The Same

The biggest similarity between them is that they both offer compassionate care to people with life-limiting illnesses.

They both look the same on the surface. Nurses in both areas will offer complex symptom relief related to the serious illness.

Another way they are similar is the location where care is received. Patients can receive both kinds of care at a home, hospital, or long-term care facility.

That is where the similarities end. There are far more differences between them. In fact, all hospice care includes palliative care. How’s that for confusing? Let’s look closer at them.

Differences Between Palliative Care And Hospice

The main differences between them is how the insurance companies categorize them. Read through the definitions and other ways they are different so you can decipher them yourself.


The definition of hospice care is compassionate care for patients that are facing terminal illness with a prognosis of 6 months or less. This is based on the physician’s estimate if the disease runs its course.

The definition of palliative care is compassionate care that provides relief from symptoms of life-limiting illness. Palliative care can be pursued at diagnoses and during curative treatment.


Patients are eligible for them at different times as well.

In order to be eligible for hospice care, they need two physicians to certify that the patient has less than 6 months to live if the disease runs its course as expected.

Eligibility for palliative care is a lot easier. Patients can begin palliative care at the discretion of just their physician at any time at any stage of the illness – whether it is terminal or not.

Payment Methods

Billing is one of the biggest reasons that there is a difference between them.

Hospice care is paid for in full by Medicare Hospice Benefit. Most insurances and the Veteran’s Administration also cover hospice services in full or with minimal co-pays.

On the flip side, palliative care is only paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance if the patient meets the company’s criteria.

When They Are Used

This is another glaring difference between them. Hospice care is reserve for patients who are not expected to live longer than 6 months.

Palliative care, however, can be employed while the patient is still receiving active treatment and could even survive.

Final Thoughts

Even though both palliative care and hospice take care of terminally ill patients, there are still many differences that it is important to understand if you are a nurse that wants to care for them. Both jobs require lots of sympathy and a strong emotional intelligence as you walk through this hard time with family members.

More Nurse Vocabulary Guides

There are so many terms in healthcare – it’s almost like its own language. Here are some more guides that will help you understand the jargon.

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