Palliative Care

  • To palliate means to make comfortable. Palliative care seeks to ease symptoms rather than to cure an illness.
  • The goals of palliative care are to improve the quality of a seriously ill person’s life and to support that person and their family during and after treatment.
  • Palliative care is usually provided by an interdisciplinary team that may include a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain, and volunteer.

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Find out more about hospice services and payment options.

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Both hospice and palliative care focus on helping to reduce physical or emotional suffering. Palliative care may be given at any time during a person’s illness, from diagnosis on. Hospice care is only for patients who have a short life expectancy (typically up to six months or a year).

Palliative care tends to be flexible, while most hospices have a set of defined services, team members and rules and regulations. Some hospices provide palliative care as a separate program or service. Here are the differences between the two types of care:

Question Palliative Care Hospice Care
Who can receive this care? Anyone with a serious illness, regardless of life expectancy. Anyone with an illness with a life expectancy measured in months not years.
Can my loved one continue to receive treatments to cure my illness? Yes. Palliative care and curative care can be provided at the same time. Hospice treatments and medicines provided relieve symptoms and are not curative.
Does Medicare pay? Some treatments and medications may be covered. Medicare pays all charges related to hospice.
Does Medicaid pay? Some treatments and medications may be covered. In 47 states, Medicaid pays all charges related to hospice.
Does private insurance pay? Some treatments and medications may be covered. Most insurance plans have a hospice benefit.
Is this a package deal? No. Services are flexible and based on the patient’s needs. Yes. Hospice services are bundled together.
How long can I receive care? This depends on your loved one’s care needs, and health care coverage. As long as your loved one continues the illness and short life expectancy.
What organization provides these services?
  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Nursing facilities
  • Healthcare clinics
  • Hospice organizations
  • Hospice programs based in a hospital
  • Other healthcare organizations
Where are services provided?
  • Home
  • Assisted living facility
  • Nursing facilities
  • Nursing facility

In most cases, wherever the patient resides: at home or in an assisted living facility, nursing facility, or hospital.

Some hospices have facilities where people can live, like a hospice residence, or receive care for short-term reasons, such as acute pain or symptom management.

Next Step: Find out more about hospice services and payment options.

Content shown was developed through a collaboration between AGIS and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.