Hospice Care During COVID-19

 In Advice, Education, End-of-Life Planning

If you have a loved one who needs hospice care you may wonder if it is possible to receive this care now when so many changes have taken place due to COVID-19. But hospice and palliative care have become even more essential during these difficult times so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you and your family members need it.

Hospice provides care for people who are nearing the end of life with an advanced illness. Most hospice services are provided in the patient’s home but also in facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, and inpatient hospices. During COVID-19 there may be a few changes in the way care is delivered to your loved one, but the focus is still on compassionate, whole-person care that maintains the comfort and dignity of the patient.

Home visit with a doctor, two elderly people in bed

Here’s what you can expect when you enroll in hospice at home:

Nursing visits

Your hospice nurse will make regular visits to your home to assess your loved one’s status and needs, adjust medications, communicate with your physician, and make recommendations for additional symptom management. The nurse will likely wear personal protective equipment such as a mask, gown and gloves to ensure the safety of everyone, but these will not interfere with the care provided or the quality of the visit. The hospice staff is trained and experienced in avoiding the spread of illness so you can be assured that there will be no risk involved in receiving this care.

Home health aide visits

If your loved one requires the assistance of a home health aide these visits will also be provided in a safe manner using personal protective equipment. Again these staff members are trained to practice infection precautions in their work so they will focus on maintaining safety as they offer care.

Chaplain and social work services

Conversations with the chaplaincy and social work members of the hospice team are just as important as the medical visits you will receive. But these visits can now be conducted over the telephone or by video chat on your computer. Patients and family members have reported that are very satisfied with these telehealth visits and that they are able to get their needs met through these calls. The hospice team members are creative in finding ways to deliver care from a distance including doing “window visits” to patients in facilities and conducting Zoom calls with large groups of family members from around the country.

Pain and symptom management

The comfort and dignity of the patient are of utmost concern to the hospice staff and these will continue to be a priority. The hospice nurse will confer with your physician or the hospice medical provider to make sure your loved one is receiving the best possible treatments at home.

Emergency consultation

A member of the hospice team will be available by telephone 24/7 should unexpected concerns or issues arise. If the situation cannot be managed over the phone then an emergency visit to your home can take place when needed. You will be able to rest easy knowing that you always have someone available to consult with during these challenging times.

Emotional support

The hospice team is well-trained and very experienced in dealing with difficult emotional situations. They will provide support to family members as well as the patient while helping you navigate the task of caregiving at home. Through in-person, online or telephone visits they can offer connection and compassion when you need it most.

Safer at home

Medical experts agree that ill and elderly loved ones are safest during this time of COVID-19 when they can be cared for at home, surrounded by loving family members. The hospice team’s mission is to help you and support you as you care for your loved one so that it will be a positive and gratifying experience.

We are all going through increased stress as we cope with this global pandemic. But the hospice team has exactly the resources and training necessary to provide the reassurance, comfort and hope we need to get through this together. If you need help caring for your loved one at home, call your hospice provider to learn more and find support.

About the author:

Dr. Karen Wyatt is a former hospice physician who hosts the End-of-Life University Podcast and is the author of the book 7 Lessons for Living from the Dying.

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