September 19, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care?

The short answer from a palliative care expert

An older person sitting in a wheelchair wearing a mask

Q: Are hospice and palliative care the same thing?

A: Living with a serious illness can be overwhelming which is why it’s important to understand your options for additional support. Both hospice and palliative care provide care with an aim to improve quality of life.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

People often confuse palliative care with hospice. Both types of care ease the symptom distress severe illness can bring — pain, fatigue, depression and more.

The difference is in the overall approach to care. You can begin palliative care for a serious illness while also receiving curative or life-prolonging treatment. Palliative specialists work in tandem with other medical specialists as an added layer of support to have you feel as well as possible.

In contrast, hospice is comfort care when life-prolonging care is no longer beneficial or desired. Hospice is interdisciplinary care provided by physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains to support people and their families at the end of life.


Palliative care — originally developed to help those who have cancer — is now used to help people living with a wide range of diseases, including heart failure. Research shows that palliative care can even extend life.

Similarly, any person entering the final phase of life can receive hospice care wherever they are located, whether in their home, nursing facilities or even specialized hospice facilities.

Both types of care will improve the person’s quality of life and will provide caregivers with emotional and practical support. So just because you or your loved one must deal with a chronic illness doesn’t mean you have to live with discomfort, pain or anxiety.


If the need should arise, don’t hesitate to seek care from a palliative care specialist or — when it’s time — from hospice.

— Palliative medicine physician Kyle Neale, DO.

Related Articles

Man in coma in hospital with IV hanging in foreground.
September 14, 2023
Why You Need a Medical Power of Attorney

This role designates a stand-in partner when you can’t make medical decisions for yourself

Someone holding an elderly persons hands.
January 15, 2023
What an End-of-Life Doula Can Do for You

Sometimes, you need help navigating your grief and the dying process

person on couch wincing, holding hands over abdomen
March 4, 2024
Colon Cancer in Young Adults: An Alarming Trend

A steady increase in cases in those younger than 50 started decades ago

Doctor holding a model of a colon with patient
February 29, 2024
How Long Does It Take Colon Cancer To Grow?

It’s a slow-moving process that offers an opportunity for early detection and treatment

At-home stool test sample and report generated
February 28, 2024
Is an At-Home Colon Cancer Test Worth Trying?

At-home screening options can be good detection tools, but a colonoscopy remains the gold standard

Tired cancer patient reading at night
February 27, 2024
The Link Between Insomnia and Cancer Treatment

Medications, tubing and stress can steal away the ZZZs you need

Female asleep on couch on backyard deck next to laptop and glasses
February 22, 2024
Does Breast Cancer Treatment Make You Tired?

The answer is yes — but there are things you can do to help boost your energy

Older man and younger man talking over coffee at a cafe
February 21, 2024
Is Colon Cancer Hereditary?

Knowing your family history and getting a genetic test can help detect colorectal cancer earlier

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes