Understanding Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

It can be confusing to navigate the differences between hospice and palliative care. The two types of care can provide similar services and are often referred to as a pair, such as, “Hospice and Palliative Care”.

Both hospice and palliative care provide pain and symptom management and comfort for serious and life-threatening illnesses. Both services also address the emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families experiencing serious illness. In fact, hospice is a type of palliative care for people during the final stages of life.

The most important difference is that palliative care allows a patient to continue  treatments and physician visits while also receiving in-home support. With hospice one can still maintain the physician of choice to oversee care, but when a patient is admitted to  hospice services, he/she is choosing to forego curative treatment(s) for comfort measures.  The focus of care shifts from quantity of life to quality of life. 

Why patients choose each type of care

While there are multiple reasons why a patient may choose hospice or palliative care, the main reason is their condition is not improving. Often patients choose hospice care because they no longer want to continue painful or difficult treatments that likely won’t improve or extend their life. A patient may choose palliative care seeking relief from the symptoms of their illness. Palliative care can help treat pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.


Patients must meet certain criteria  to be eligible for hospice or palliative care. Typically, hospice is for patients with a life expectancy of six months or less which is determined by Medicare requirements, as well as the patient’s physician.

Patients opting for hospice care are often farther along in the course of their illness while palliative care is useful for patients who are still moving through their clinical treatment. Palliative patients receive many of the same services of hospice as they continue aggressive treatment.  

As stated earlier, the main differentiator between the two types of care comes down to the goal. Palliative care patients are undergoing curative treatments and seeking recovery, whereas hospice patients are seeking comfort at the end of life.

If you need assistance determining which type of care is right for you or a loved one, your doctor or a member of the VNA team can provide you with guidance.

 Please contact us directly at gethelp@vnatexas.org or call (214) 689-0000.