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Hospice vs. Palliative Care: What’s the Difference?

In this video, Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, explains the difference between hospice and palliative care.

Mera Goodman, MD
Written by Brittany Doohan | Reviewed by Mera Goodman, MD
Updated on April 13, 2021

There are many misconceptions about palliative care—and confusing it with hospice is one of them.

“I think patients often have concerns about palliative care,” says Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, palliative care specialist at Mount Sinai in New York City. “They think it means that they’re at the end of their lives and that’s absolutely not true.”

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a group of specialized medical services that help patients with serious, yet curable or treatable, conditions (such as heart failure, cancer, or Parkinson’s disease) get relief from their symptoms. Palliative care can help patients improve their quality of life and enhance the effectiveness of their treatment. Learn more about palliative care here.

“Palliative care is for any age at any stage—and people who get palliative care will live years and years, and many people who get palliative care will actually be cured,” says Dr. Goldstein.

So, What Is Hospice?

Hospice is also a specialized type of medical care, but unlike palliative care, it’s offered to an individual who is in the late stages of a terminal illness. Hospice often begins when treatments are felt to be no longer helpful, and the patient and care team decide to focus on quality of life.

The goal of hospice is to provide comfort to the patient by managing their symptoms in a place they call “home” or choose to spend the remainder of their life.

Both hospice and palliative care also provide support to caregivers who are coping with their loved one’s illness.

Interested in getting palliative care? Talk to your doctor, and see here to learn more about how to get palliative care for yourself or your loved one.

Additional Medical Contributors
  • Nathan E. Goldstein, MDNathan E. Goldstein, MD, is a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.


    What Are Hospice and Palliative Care? Bethesda, MD. National Institute on Aging. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-palliative-care-and-hospice-care)

    Primary Palliative Care. Waltham, MA. UpToDate, 2020 (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/primary-palliative-care)

    View All References (2)

    Pain and Palliative Care. Bethesda, MD. National Institutes of Health Clinical Care. (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://clinicalcenter.nih.gov/palliativecare/hospice_care.html)

    Hospice: Philosophy of care and appropriate utilization in the United States. Waltham, MA. UpToDate, 2020.  (Accessed on April 12, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hospice-philosophy-of-care-and-appropriate-utilization-in-the-united-states)

    GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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