Care for serious illness: How hospice and palliative care help

Nov. 11, 2017—If you or a loved one is dealing with a serious illness, you might be thinking about starting palliative or hospice care. Both can help people with a serious illness feel more comfortable—but they're not the same thing.

Here's some information about each type of care:

  • Palliative care aims to ease the suffering and symptoms caused by any disease or disorder. It can be given to anyone with a serious illness, whether or not they can be cured.
  • Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care. It's for people who likely have 6 months or less to live.

Both types of care have the same core goal: to improve quality of life and help a person and their loved ones cope. This is done with the help of a team of specialists that may include doctors, nurses, home health workers, social workers and spiritual aides. Other experts—like nutritionists and physical therapists—might also be involved.

What's the difference?

People undergoing palliative care may also get treatment to try to cure their disease at the same time. But people undergoing hospice care only get treatment to make their final months or days more comfortable.

Finding the right care

Hospice care is always palliative. But not all palliative care is hospice care. If you're unsure about the right option for you or a loved one, talk with your doctor. Together you can figure out the best way to manage symptoms and ease pain.