Palliative care and hospice care share a major characteristic: care. However, they each are distinct in their delivery.
The goal of palliative care is to manage pain and relieve other symptoms. It can be delivered while a patient pursues life-prolonging or curative treatments and when a patient’s prognosis is greater than six months. Though most closely associated with serious illness at an advanced stage—such as terminal cancer, chronic lung disease or heart failure—-palliative care can also be delivered along with curative treatments.
Palliative care is delivered with an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach by a care team that may include nurses, therapists (speech, physical, occupational), a physician, certified home health aides, a social worker and a dietician. Often, patients view palliative care, which is administered at home, as a “bridge” to hospice care.
The goal of hospice is to prepare the patient and his/her family for death. It is generally appropriate for someone with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less. The focus of hospice care is to enable patients to experience the end of their lives with dignity and as fully as possible.