Hospice vs. Palliative Care: What’s the Difference?

What should you know about the differences between Palliative Care & Hospice Care?

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is available to terminally ill patients and those who have been determined to have a life expectancy of less than six months. Hospice care is paid for by Medicare, private insurance, and state Medicaid programs. The federal agency called the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, has determined eligibility for hospice services is for those with a life expectancy of six months or less, and most payers follow this guideline. There are some insurers who determine hospice eligibility with a prognosis of 12 months or less. The goal of hospice is to make the patient comfortable and prepare the patient and their family for the patient’s end of life when it is determined treatment for the illness will no longer be pursued. The eligibility for hospice care and the service delivery plan is determined by the Medicare-certified and state-licensed hospice program enrolling the hospice patient. Teams use a multi-disciplinary approach with care provided by highly trained professionals. While on hospice service, the use of life-prolonging medications and treatments are discontinued. Care is offered at the place the patient prefers and calls home, such as in their own home or that of a family member; in a skilled nursing facility; an assisted living residence; or in rare occasions, in a hospital. At Notre Dame At Home, our Hospice and Palliative Care division, we practice a holistic approach that focuses on the connection of the mind, body and spirit. This practice is based on patient-centered care and treating the whole person, versus treating the disease.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care focuses on relief from physical suffering. The patient may be undergoing treatment for a disease or may be living with a chronic illness and may or may not be terminally ill. Payer sources can be Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurers. If you are Medicaid eligible, please check with your state’s Medicaid agency to see if palliative care is covered. While on palliative services you can utilize life-prolonging and/or curative medications and treatments. As with hospice, palliative teams use a multi-disciplinary approach using highly trained professionals. More focus is now being given to ways that palliative care can be used in the treatment of chronic and serious illnesses to help folks that may not be ready for hospice care. At Notre Dame At Home we believe that it is important to stay connected with our patients throughout their healthcare journey in order to support and lead to the very best outcomes.

What is “Combined Care”?

Healthcare providers are learning that a combined approach to care can be the most successful for many patients facing life limiting diseases. “Combined Care” Hospices are the largest providers of palliative care services in the country. Many organizations work together to offer the patient a seamless continuum of care over the course of a serious illness. By offering both palliative and hospice care services, patients are able to transition to a greater service level as the disease process takes its course over time. As a “Combined Care” provider, Notre Dame At Home is able to help you learn about the differences between hospice and palliative care, while also navigating the healthcare system to be sure your personal values and needs are being considered in all decisions.

Be Involved and Informed.

You play an important role in determining the range of services and the quality of care you receive. Discussing end-of-life care and choosing services that will help make you comfortable may be difficult and confusing. It may be helpful to learn about both hospice and palliative care services, and understand what Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance covers in the early stages of an illness. This helps make the decision to choose services easier if you become terminally ill or learn of a prognosis of six months of life expectancy. You should talk to your physician to see if you are eligible for palliative or hospice care, ask questions and stay informed.

For more information you can call us at 508-852-5505, or learn more about Hospice Care and Palliative Care here on our website.


NOTE: Information for this blog was provided by Notre Dame At Home (our Hospice and Palliative Care Division) as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at CMS.gov.