The Difference Between Hospice and Home Health Care

Personalized health care services at the patient’s residence can benefit the patient on various levels. It allows the patient to have a more comfortable environment for care in a cheaper and more financially flexible manner. Depending on the severity of the illness, however, these personalized health care services can range from home health care to hospice care.

Home health care service refers to the regular, intermittent, and documented home visits from health care service professionals to provide therapy and care. Hospice care refers to the around-the-clock service to a patient suffering from a terminal illness at his/her preferred place of care. These two types of care differ in terms of the eligibility requirements for the program and the mode and duration of care.

Hospice vs Home Health Care

hospice care


One of the most common eligibility for home health care is the inability of a patient to leave their home without help or aid from supportive equipment. Becoming eligible for home health care can help in regaining independence and self-sufficiency without incurring expensive hospital bills. It also provides personalized service to the patient.

Patients admitted into hospice care are usually those who have only six months or less to live. Hospice care starts when the patient becomes eligible and is admitted into the hospice care program. This can be performed in the person’s private residence or a dedicated care facility.

Duration of Care

There is no set length of care service for home health care. The frequency, length, and amount of home health care depend on the goals for employing the service. It may even continue as long as the conditions make home health care service eligible. Usually, home health care is short-term care that decreases in frequency over time as the condition of the patient improves.

Home health care is not available 24 hours a day. It is also not available in long-term care facilities. Usually, home health care is employed for people suffering from illnesses or injury or recovering from surgery. This allows them to have sufficient help until they recover.

Hospice health care refers to the 24/7 care service by a specialized team of professionals for a patient suffering from a life-threatening illness. The duration and frequency of care in hospice care usually increase over time as the disease manifests more and worsens symptoms.

People who outlive the initial six months of life expectancy can still apply for hospice care. There is often no limit for recertification as long as the patient is eligible for hospice care. It is also possible to transition from hospice care to home health care when the patient’s condition improves.

Mode of Care

Home health care refers to the documented and intermittent visits to private homes by skilled care professionals to provide therapy and care service. Home care professionals can range from nurses, therapists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists.

Some of the common procedures for home health care are wound cleaning and care, injections, IV therapy, rehabilitation, dietary and hygiene assistance, and monitoring services. These procedures are not as intensive as in hospice care since home health care is focused only on assisting a patient on their way to recovery.

Hospice care does not refer to the place of care but the principle of care which upholds the patient’s comfort and dignity. It is employed when all the methods for curing the disease have been exhausted and none has been proven to have a positive effect in curing the illness.

The focus of hospice care for alleviating symptoms and relieving pain as the disease runs its course on the patient’s body is often the more preferred mode of care for people suffering from terminal illnesses. It is solely focused on providing care rather than cure. This allows the patient to have more pleasant and dignified final moments with family and friends.

Hospice care is subdivided into different levels depending on the program. Routine care refers to the regular visit from the hospice care team to any place that the patient prefers. Respite care is performed in a dedicated facility. Continuous care is a more intensive type of hospice care that often requires a combination of nursing and home health care services. Lastly, general in-patient refers to the admission to a dedicated health care facility for easier and more efficient symptom management.

Usually, hospice health care requires the family to appoint a primary caregiver among family members or friends. The primary caregiver will help the care service professional team in making decisions and communicating the needs of the patient. If there is no primary caregiver available within the family or close friends, the care service professional team can find one for the patient.

This team can conduct unlimited and frequent visits to the patient within the six months of limited life expectancy. They will handle the provision of over-the-counter (OTC) medication for pain relief as well as opioids. However, opioids have been questioned due to the tendency for the patient to become addicted. The team also has an on-call nurse who can answer calls from the family or primary caregiver 24/7 and dispatch team members to the family’s residence or place of care.

The hospice care team is usually composed of professionals from various fields to provide the patient with clinical, emotional, social, practical, and spiritual support. Volunteers may also assist in providing a more convenient home arrangement for the patient.

Hospice care service is beneficial because it allows the patient and the family to craft a creative schedule of care at their convenience. It also prioritizes their preferred setting and mode of care. Also, they will receive care from an interdisciplinary team of professionals who can provide specialized care based on their expertise.

Final Thoughts

Home health care and hospice care differ primarily on the degree of and intention for providing care to the patient. Home health care is intended for people on their way to recover from illness or injury. Hospice care is intended for people suffering from terminal illnesses looking for relief and comfort while living under limited life expectancy.