Hospice of Anchorage 

Palliative care defined


July 1, 2017

The medical world can be a confusing place between insurance, medications, diagnosis, let alone understanding all of the medical jargon. Most people know about hospice care, but less people know about palliative care. Understanding the meaning of words can mean everything, especially around end-of-life, as it can be a sensitive topic. Not to confuse anyone, but we are Hospice of Anchorage and we are a palliative care agency.

When it comes to treatment there are some differences in the timeframe and patient goals between hospice and palliative care. Hospice care provides care for the terminally ill, most often introduced in the last six months of life and focused on improving quality and comfort of their remaining life. Whereas with palliative care, it can be used alongside curative and life-prolonging measures, given to those with terminal and non-terminal illness and can begin at any stage of disease. Both are addressing pain, comfort and improving quality of life.

Eligibility of both services varies, with hospice care having more stipulations. With hospice care a loved one must become certified as terminally ill (within six months of death) by a physician, must agree to no longer pursue curative measures and must elect to pursue care with a specific hospice organization. This is compared to palliative care, where one must request a referral from a physician to receive services. Patient and families are always able to ask to be evaluated for either service to see if they are appropriate.

Where is your care going to take place? In hospice care, any place you call home. Palliative care is most often provided at a care facility that is associated with palliative care (i.e. hospital, outpatient). The people involved in the care are an interdisciplinary team. In Alaska, we have palliative care departments through Providence Hospital and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

The last difference between the two that most people would probably like to know about is the finance piece. How is this paid for? With hospice care, people with Medicare have a hospice benefit; state Medicaid and most private insurances have a hospice benefit. Palliative care is a covered benefit for Medicare Part B, State Medicaid and private insurance (depends on benefits). Please use this as an opportunity to verify your own benefits for these services.

Hospice of Anchorage is a little different as we are more of a palliative care agency. On the treatment side, we are available to begin at any stage of the disease and can be used alongside any curative and life-prolonging measures. We do not need a referral from a physician; anyone can call and request services. For our care location, we can provide care any place you call home. We have an interdisciplinary team and have grief services. Hospice of Anchorage services are covered by grants and generous donations from community partners to allow us to provide all services at no charge.

Hospice of Anchorage provides a monthly educational opportunity for our staff, volunteers and community. This month’s topic is titled “The Silenced Grief of Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss”.

All loss has common threads and unique experiences. The loss of a child through miscarriage, pregnancy, or early infancy death may be compounded by limited sensory memories or interactions and grieving the loss of the future: relinquishing the wishes, hopes and fantasies about one who could have been but never was (but briefly).

Join Hospice of Anchorage’s Forget Me Not Grief Program and the Children’s Hospital Providence Bereavement Council for a compassionate discussion as part of Hospice of Anchorage’s ongoing community education series. Space is limited to the first 20 people who RSVP so please do so today at volunteers@hospiceofanchorage.org or call 561-5322 and ask for Chelsea.


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