Many people confuse hospice and palliative care, thinking they are one and the same. Although they share a similar philosophy, the delivery of care is different.

Both hospice and palliative care focus on quality of life or "comfort care," including the active management of pain and other symptoms, as well as the psychological, social and spiritual issues often experienced at the end of life.

David Tsai, M.D., a geriatrician at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and medical director of its Palliative Care Program, explains the following similarities and differences in hospice and palliative care:

Hospice Care

  • A Medicare benefit, hospice care is available for patients whose life expectancy is six months or less, as determined by their physician.
  • Patients must sign a form acknowledging that they will forgo curative efforts.
  • Hospice care takes place in the home, long-term care facility, or hospice residence.
  • Hospice extends care to the family into the period of bereavement.

Palliative Care

  • Palliative care services do not depend on life expectancy, are best introduced early in care, and may be pursued at the same time as curative efforts.
  • Palliative care is often provided in acute-care hospitals and is also offered in long-term care and post-acute care facilities.
  • Palliative care can begin as early as the time of diagnosis, even when aggressive treatment is still being sought.
  • The goal of palliative care is to provide a better understanding of medical care choices, detailed practical information and assistance, and emotional support for the patient and their family.
  • Families should speak with their physician early on about prognosis and goals of care, and ask about contacting a hospice or palliative care service.

Questions? 617-363-8183 or email Palliative Care