In the face of coronavirus, we are looking at a difficult and tumultuous time for healthcare professionals, patients and their families.
This pandemic has completely uprooted many people’s routines and livelihoods and it has put unparalleled pressures on our healthcare system. For hospice professionals especially, COVID-19 has created new challenges.
Hospice Before Coronavirus
On paper, hospice provides care for people with illnesses who have chosen to seek treatment for symptoms rather than a cure during the last six months of life. But in reality, hospice is supposed to be so much more.
Hospice is meant to address not only physical care, but also the significant emotional and spiritual needs that arise as someone gets closer to death. Whether in their own home or in a care facility, hospice allows people to give life back to their days.
Hospice care not only provides support for patients, it also supports their families. If a family member is providing care to their loved one, hospice can provide support in the form of respite care. Hospice also helps families process grief and connect with bereavement services after their loved one passes away.
Those who have leaned on hospice care for a loved one understand how intimate this level of care can become, but with a global pandemic that demands distance and isolation, how do you cope?
A Look Through the Lens of a Pandemic
Comfort, community, healing — those things are what hospice care seeks to provide. As COVID continues to impact the world, care centers thought of for support are now struggling to provide high-quality care and emotional comfort for terminally ill patients and their families. Hospitals are overrun, assisted living facilities are on lockdown — all while trying to maintain their cash flow and supplies just to keep their company running and their staff members and patients safe.
To reduce risks of infection, most hospitals aren’t allowing outside visitors to those in their care, leaving people who are not able to transition to at-home care to die with only their nurse by their side.
The hospice industry is facing many of the same struggles of larger healthcare systems — staff shortages, scarce PPE, isolation — while still trying to provide peace for their patients. Some hospice providers end up turning away referrals due to lack of equipment or staff while others are struggling to navigate limited visitation and resources for the patients they already have. Doctors and care providers must grapple with weighing the isolation of in-facility treatment versus limited pain management if a patient opts to remain at home for their final days.
Our healthcare systems, our governments and our communities have never had to face a pandemic like what our world is facing with COVID so, where do we go from here?
Hospice is uniquely positioned to continue to help families and loved ones cope with what they are facing. Day in and day out, hospice professionals work with those who are terminally ill and looking for comfort — no group of medical professionals is better prepared.
As the world continues to figure out how to navigate our current reality, hospice providers must think creatively to manage this crisis. Earlier this year, CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) announced that hospice providers can opt to utilize telehealth services over in-person care. This allows patients, families and hospice workers to stay safe but can remove the “caring touch” that hospice is known for. Instead of looking at this as a hindrance to care, hospice workers can adapt to still provide the comfort their patients need, without added risk.
Even from an operations and referrals standpoint, the hospice landscape can adapt. By expanding supply networks, utilizing group purchasing with other facilities, and finding new ways to connect with referrals, we can continue to provide the care our communities and our teams so desperately need.
We can’t speak to what all the future holds but at Hospice of Southwest Ohio, we’re still here for you.
Find Out More About Hospice of Southwest Ohio
Hospice of Southwest Ohio is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life during a patient's final months and days. HSWO offers hospice, palliative and in-home primary care in and around the greater Cincinnati area in Clermont County, Butler County, Warren County and Hamilton County. Call today at (513) 770-0820.