Living Well: What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care? |

Living Well: What’s the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health
Palliative care is an approach to patient care that is focused on comfort including physical, emotional and spiritual care.
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A Q&A with Kristine Cooper, executive director of Home Health and Hospice at Memorial Regional Health

Q: What is palliative care? 

Kristine Cooper: Palliative care is an approach to patient care that is focused on comfort including physical, emotional and spiritual care. Patients may seek palliative care or palliation when they are suffering from a chronic illness, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are at the end of life.

What is hospice? 

KC: Hospice is palliative care for patients who have a life-limiting illness that they are no longer treating, and are expected to live six months or less. Medicare, Medicaid and many commercial insurances have hospice benefits available.

The hospice focuses on providing palliative care for patients’ pain and other symptoms as well as providing additional wrap-around services for emotional and spiritual needs.

What’s the difference between palliative care and hospice?  

KC: Palliative care is the big umbrella of comfort care. Hospice falls under that umbrella as a type of palliative care. In other words, all hospice care is palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice. 

The main difference between hospice and palliative care is that hospice is provided for patients when patients are electing not to seek curative treatment. Palliative care can be provided in conjunction with curative treatments.

When is it time to use these types of care? 

KC: Patients who are being treated for an illness may want to seek palliative care for additional support in physical, spiritual and emotional comfort. Patients would want to seek hospice care when they are expected to live six months or less and they are no longer receiving treatment for their terminal illness.

Hospice care at Memorial Regional Health

MRH offers hospice care that provides end-of-life, palliative care for patients with a life-limiting condition. Hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team to administer physical, psychological, spiritual and sociological care. For more information, please visit, or contact Kristine Cooper at or 970-826-2421.

What are some misperceptions about both types of care?

KC: To many people, palliative care means hospice care, when in fact hospice is a type of palliative care. As mentioned above, patients can seek palliative care and still get curative treatment for their disease.

What are the hospice services offered at MRH?  

KC: Memorial Regional Health Home Health is the only accredited agency in Northwest Colorado that provides hospice care. Our agency can provide hospice care in the home as well as at the MRH Hospital. Our Hospice team consists of nurses, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), chaplains, volunteers and physicians, and we have over 75 years of experience providing care for patients.

What else is important to note about hospice and palliative care? KC: For patients who are coping with a chronic or terminal illness, I would encourage them to discuss with their provider what options are available. Choosing palliative care or hospice care is not giving up hope. It is really about trying to make time more comfortable and enjoyable.

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