Hospices, hospitals and care homes - what’s the difference?

Nov. 6, 2018, 7:53 p.m.

Hospices, hospitals and care homes are full of hard-working people caring for people who are ill, elderly or both! We discovered there’s actually quite a few differences between hospices, hospitals and care homes after our visit to the wonderful Garden House Hospice. In this blog we hope to break them down for you so you too can learn about the different roles each service plays for patients and their families.


A hospice puts comfort first and foremost when it comes to caring for patients. There is an emphasis on ‘palliative care’ which doesn’t necessarily mean care for the terminally ill (although it can mean that!). Palliative care can also include making sure cancer patients are comfortable when they’re going through treatment.

One of the biggest differences between hospices and hospitals or care homes is that hospices are free. They’re usually run by local and national charities such as Demelza House, Marie Curie and the Hospice of the Good Shepherd.

Hospices are more ‘homely’ than a hospital, as they strive to create a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere. Visiting times are also far more flexible than hospitals - this also goes for mealtimes, treatment times and bedtimes.

One of the biggest differences between hospices and care homes is the purpose. A hospice focuses mainly on controlling illnesses rather than curing them, whereas a hospital’s priority is to cure and prevent. Hospices also provide social activities and complementary therapies, as well as emotional and spiritual support for both you and your family.


Hospitals, first and foremost, look to treat people, but that isn’t to say they don’t offer any palliative care services. In fact, some hospitals have dedicated palliative care units. This includes the Symptom Control Team and the Macmillan Support Team, among others. If you have a terminal illness, the hospital will help control your symptoms, as well as provide emotional support for you and your family. The palliative care unit can include anything from just one nurse to a whole team of nurses, doctors, chaplains and social workers.

Care homes

Care homes, or nursing homes, are generally paid-for residencies for elderly people and those with learning difficulties. Residents and their families must usually pay fees and places can be fairly limited at times.

However, if the doctors believe you have less than six months to live, or if you simply need regular nursing care, the NHS may help pay for your fees.

Care homes, similarly to hospices, can be very homely and some are even full-scale ‘retirement villages’ with round-the-clock care. It all depends on what you or your family can afford. In a traditional care home, residents are looked after by carers as opposed to nurses or doctors. The staff offer care such as dressing and washing - but all medication is administered by a qualified nurse.Many people choose care homes for their relatives as they don’t feel they themselves could provide the quality of care their loved one needs.

Are you or a family member considering hospice care? We work with hospices to make sure people can plan a funeral that truly reflects their lives. Don’t forget to follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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