Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Understanding the Differences Between Palliative and Hospice Care

Palliative Care: Medical care that is dedicated to providing individuals relief from the symptoms, conditions, and pain that accompany a chronic disease or illness. This care can be used at any stage of the illness to improve quality of life, relieve discomfort and reduce stress in the individual and their family.

  • Palliative care is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team that includes physicians, counselors, nurses and spiritual advisors. The team helps the individual and family to address medical, social and emotional support. Palliative care can be provided in the person’s home, as well as in long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and hospitals.
  • Palliative care is a resource available to anyone with a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
  • To find palliative care request a referral from primary physician or visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at

Hospice Care: Specialized type of palliative care for individuals who have a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care focuses on controlling and alleviating pain and other symptoms of illness so the induvial can be comfortable near the end of life. The person and or family will agree not to have curative or life-prolonging interventions, meaning that attempts to cure or treat any underlying illness has stopped (e.g., as in the case of cancer chemotherapy would be stopped).

  • Hospice care is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, social workers, nurses, and spiritual advisors. The team helps with improving quality of life, and helping the individual be as comfortable as possible. Hospice can be provided in the home, as well as in a hospital, long-term care facility, or hospice facility.
  • To qualify for hospice, an individual needs to meet certain medical requirements, which must be evaluated by a physician who will then submit a statement of need.
  • If the individual’s condition improves, hospice care can be discontinued. The person can also choose to stop hospice care and utilize curative treatments.

Insurance Coverage:  Private insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) can help cover the costs of palliative and hospice care. Medicare can offer hospice benefits, Medicare plan (Part B) can cover some palliative care benefits. Medicaid coverage of hospice and palliative care is different in each state. Contact the individual’s insurance provider to learn what type of coverage their plan provides for palliative care and hospice.

Have questions or need more information? Contact AFA’s Helpline at 866-232-8484 or click the chat icon in the lower right hand corner of this page.

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