In the minds of many, palliative and hospice care are indistinguishable. Both types of care are focused on providing care and a quality of life that is consistent with a patient’s wishes. However, they are distinct services.

Let’s look at a side-by-side comparison of palliative and hospice care.

What kind of care is provided?

Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on providing relief from symptoms. Specially trained teams of physicians, nurses, and other specialists work with the patient’s physician to improve the patient’s quality of life. In addition, it provides the patient and their loved ones with more control over their health care decisions, including their goals for the patient and options for care.

Palliative care can be performed while still receiving treatments. It does serve many people with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, but some people become cured and no longer require the care, or move in and out of the program.

Palliative care is available in a person’s home, or an assisted living or skilled nursing home community.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is focused on end-of-life care that eases pain and provides comfort care to the patient rather than curative care or treatments.

Hospice care also brings together a specialized team. For example, the Bethesda Hospice Care team consists of:

  • Physicians
  • RN case managers
  • Chaplains
  • Social workers (trained in hospice services)
  • Therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Bereavement Counselors

The care plan is flexible and can include a re-evaluation of current medications that may no longer be effective. Communications with the patient and family members are constantly maintained to meet current needs and anticipate future requirements.

Hospice care can be made available in a person’s home, assisted living community, skilled nursing community, hospital, or hospice facility. Bethesda provides private hospice suites for the hospice patient and a place for the family to gather together at three of its skilled nursing communities.

Who might receive palliative or hospice care?

Palliative Care

This care might be appropriate for someone with a serious illness, such as cancer, heart, kidney, or lung disease or dementia. People who make frequent emergency room visits, three or more hospital admissions per year, or who are suffering serious side effects from treatments like chemotherapy also would be candidates.

A person can enter palliative care through a physician referral.

Hospice Care

A person who has a life-limiting condition with a prognosis of six months or less if the condition runs its normal course. The primary care physician then writes an order for a hospice evaluation/consult to initiate the hospice referral.

A physician must certify that the patient is terminally ill, with a six-month or less life expectancy. If however, the patient lives longer than six months, they can still qualify for hospice as long as they are re-certified by a physician.

Benefits of Hospice Care

Hospice care is a unique service, that provides benefits to both the patient and their families. Hospice care benefits include:

  • Pain and symptom management
  • Emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual support for patients and families
  • End of life planning, Advanced Directives, and Funeral planning
  • Medications, medical equipment, and supplies
  • Bereavement Care and Counseling

Who covers the costs?

Palliative care

Medicare and private insurers cover some costs. It’s advisable to check your policy or call your insurance company. Medicaid covers some costs of palliative care, but ask the organization that is providing the services to see what co-pays or fees may be required.

Hospice care

Medicare pays all charges for seniors related to hospice care. Most insurances and the Veteran’s Administration also cover hospice services in full or with co-pays. provides information on Medicaid coverage for hospice.

Bethesda Hospice Care provides support to seniors and their loved ones, whether at home or at one of our communities. This unique program provides comfort and attention to the quality of life. Contact us to learn more.