The differences between volunteer and Medicare hospice

Hospice is not a place. And hospice care is not just about those who are dying. Hospice is a comprehensive, compassionate kind of care that focuses on living – hospice is about living as fully as possible, surrounded by family and friends, up until the end of life. Palliative care brings this special philosophy of care to people earlier in the course of a serious illness. Did you know that Hospice of Anchorage is a Volunteer Hospice? Did you know there are three Medicare hospice providers serving Anchorage and the surrounding areas as well?

What is a Volunteer Hospice and what does that mean for you?

Because Hospice of Anchorage is not a Medicare Certified hospice provider, access to our services differs from Providence Hospice, Ancora Hospice and Frontier Hospice (the three Medicare hospice providers in the Anchorage area).

Making a referral to hospice care

If you are earlier in the course of a serious life-limiting illness and/or are still undergoing treatment but need some guidance and support, please call Hospice of Anchorage. We can help you and your loved ones navigate your diagnosis, connect you with community resources, and provide social services as well as nurse education.

If you or a loved one are no longer pursuing curative treatment, do not want to return to the hospital, and have been given a diagnosis with a life expectancy of six months or less, you should call a Medicare Certified Hospice.

Most importantly, do not wait. What we hear most often from those on our service is, “I wish I would have called sooner.”

What services are offered?

Hospice of Anchorage offers care provided by a team of professionals and trained volunteers, and includes emotional spiritual support, information, education, in-home practical assistance and companionship, assessment, and coordination of community resources. The staff provide consultation, education, and support visits generally during regular working hours, Monday through Friday. We make referrals to Medicare Hospice or other home care providers and provide volunteers when care needs increase.  Hospice of Anchorage coordinates with other providers for needed medications and equipment and provides limited in-home respite and chore services for those who qualify for our State of Alaska funded Senior In-Home grant program. 

Supervision of medical care remains with the individual’s provider.

Grief support is available to anyone in the community through phone calls and mailings. Individualized support is available for families of Hospice of Anchorage patients.

Providence Hospice, Ancora Hospice and Frontier Hospice provide care in the person’s place of residence by a team of professionals (RN Case Managers, Chaplain, LCSW or LMSW, Medical Director, and Certified Nursing Assistants) and trained volunteers. They also provide:

After-hours coverage with as needed access to RN and physician

Medications related to pain and symptom management (per formulary) and Durable Medical Equipment, per basic equipment list (all other requests considered on a case-by-case basis)

Four levels of care: Routine In-home care; Continuous Care; General In-Patient Care; In-Patient Respite Care

Supervision of medical care can remain with the individual’s provider or can transfer to the Hospice’s Medical Director.

One year of bereavement support after the death.

Who is eligible?

Hospice of Anchorage serves individuals of all ages (from before birth to 101+) with a limited life expectancy and their support networks; provides support to families and caregivers even when an individual declines care; will serve those who are continuing to receive palliative or curative treatments or go to their provider or hospital for care.

Providence Hospice, Ancora Hospice and Frontier Hospice generally, do not admit individuals receiving ongoing medical treatments/hospitalization for their illness.  Medicare does have specific medical indicators/criteria that must be present to qualify for the Medicare Hospice Benefit. A physician must sign a “Certification of Terminal Illness” (CTI).

Who can make a referral?

For Hospice of Anchorage, anyone. A referral/admission order from a health care provider is not needed.

For Providence Hospice, Ancora Hospice, Frontier Hospice, a referral/admission order is needed from a health care provider.

How do I pay for hospice care?

At Hospice of Anchorage, there is no fee for care. Services are funded primarily by community donations and gifts of volunteer time.

At Providence Hospice, Ancora Hospice, Frontier Hospice, hospice care is 100% covered by Medicare, as well as by most Medicaid and commercial insurances.

If this information about hospice surprises you, or raises more questions, take the time to find out more. The best time to learn about hospice care is before someone in your family is facing a health care crisis.

Hospice of Anchorage, 907-561-5322

Providence Hospice, 907-212-4400

Ancora Hospice, 907-561-0700

Frontier Hospice, 907-272-1275

Amy Tribbett is the Hospice of Anchorage executive director.

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