Helping Patients Differentiate Between Hospice and Palliative Care

The chair of the Institute of Pain and Palliative Care explains the primary difference between hospice and palliative care.

Palliative care does not need to be associated with end-of-life care, explained Joe Contreras, MD. Although many patients may believe that palliative care and hospice care are the same, the former is a specialty of medicine which is available at any point in a patient’s treatment journey, while hospice is usually limited to the last 6 months of life.

In an interview with Oncology Nursing News®, Contreras, chair of the Institute of Pain and Palliative Care at Hackensack Meridian Health, explains some of the key factors which make these 2 forms of supportive care different.

“Palliative care is a specialty of medicine. It can happen at any time in life. If one is diagnosed with serious illness [it] just depends on whether or not that person could benefit. It's a specialty of medicine and not a setting,” he said.

“The philosophy of [hospice] care is very similar to that of palliative care. It's very much comfort oriented, [but patients] can no longer get aggressive treatments, they can no longer get disease modifying treatments or curative treatments. That is one thing that they have to give up,” he continued. “Hospice is clearly not a specialty. It is a time frame.”