By: Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho
What is the difference between Palliative and Hospice Care?
One of the ways end-of-life care is provided is through hospice. Hospice, as defined by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is a program of care and support for a dying person whose doctor and a hospice medical director certify has less than six months to live.
The focus of hospice is on comfort, not cure. Currently, patients must be willing to give up curative treatments to receive Medicare coverage for hospice care. (Medicare continues to pay for any covered health problems that are unrelated to the dying person’s terminal illness.)
Unlike hospice care, you do not have to be dying or give up curative treatments to receive palliative care. The term “palliative care” is sometimes mistakenly used to mean end-of-life care, but palliative care is a treatment available to anyone of any age suffering from the discomforts, symptoms, and stress of a serious illness.
Palliative care is used effectively to provide relief from many chronic conditions and their treatments, too. Older persons who are living with one or more chronic illnesses may benefit from palliative care long before they need end-of-life or hospice care. Unlike hospice care, palliative care may be used for as long as necessary.
To learn more about hospice care, palliative care, and other types of end-of-life care, go to the NIH website.http://nihseniorhealth.gov/endoflife/preparingfortheendoflife/01.html.
 National Institute of Health, Senior Health, “End Of Life,” March 2014.