Hospice care offers those with a life expectancy of six months or shorter a chance to receive care and treatment that provides comfort and an increased quality of life. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on the hospice care industry, particularly between hospice care workers and patients. With the right care plan, however, hospice care can remain effective in helping terminally ill patients live a higher quality of life while also remaining protected from COVID-19.
Aspects of Hospice Care
Hospice care plays an important role in helping terminally ill individuals remain comfortable while adhering to normal life as best as possible. Hospice care treats each patient in a unique manner, and the methods of treatment vary for each individual. In general, however, hospice care often involves the following:
- Symptom management
- Emotional counseling
- Spiritual counseling
- Physical therapy
- Medical support
The primary goal of hospice care is ensuring a pain free, comfortable experience during the patient’s remaining time. Depending on the needs of the patient, this may include managing pain and general discomfort they experience, helping them deal with mental health concerns or providing them spiritual counseling with the hospice care chaplain. As one may expect, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to offer personal attention and contact services such as massage therapy or physical therapy.
With that said, many hospice care teams are overcoming the barriers caused by COVID-19 with increased safety measures and innovative ways of communicating and providing services to patients.
How COVID-19 is Affecting Hospice Care
Those in need of hospice care are typically among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 as their ability to fight the virus may be compromised. Subsequently, hospice care workers must take extra precautions to ensure they protect their patients from any exposure to the coronavirus.
These precautions may include wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), utilizing virtual visits with patients and restricting access to visitors. For example, a patient who desires spiritual counseling may transition to virtual visits with the hospice care chaplain rather than in-person visits.
Another common change is limiting the number of visits conducted by home health aides and social workers for at-home hospice care. Of course, every situation is unique, and further adjustments may need to be made. As unfortunate as these changes may be, it is necessary to protect those in need of hospice care.
Little to No Visitors
Perhaps the primary change hospice care patients have experienced due to COVID-19 is a reduced amount of in-person social interactions. Many hospice care centers normally make an effort to ensure patients are able to stay socially active as much as possible. Centers may do this by encouraging friends and family to visit, having hospice care workers come to provide care, and other similar activity.
The opposite is true during the COVID-19 pandemic, however. Currently, it is encouraged that those in need of hospice care have as little in-person interactions with others as possible, as they are often the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Of course, essential services provided by hospice workers will still continue, although the workers will take necessary measures, including wearing PPE and frequent sanitation, to protect the hospice care patients and their family members.
Social distancing and other safety measures may also put a strain on family members and friends. However, they can continue to communicate virtually through the use of cell phones, laptops and other smart devices. Hospice care staff can help those who need assistance learning to use the smart devices so that they can keep open lines of communication with the hospice care staff as well as their friends and family members.
Decreased Personal Connection to Hospice Plans
Much of the care a hospice care team provides occurs in person. This includes medical assistance, counseling, physical therapy and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a barrier between patients and the hospice care workers as it decreases the amount of personal contact that is allowed. Services such as acupuncture and massage therapy are likely on hold for now, and the overall care plan in many instances must be altered to meet state regulations for optimal safety of all hospice patients.
It is important to have a positive outlook on the current situation, and the hospice care team and the patients should be open to changes in the hospice care plan. With proper planning, hospice care teams can continue improving patients’ quality of life while also ensuring they are as best protected from exposure to the coronavirus as possible.
Contact The Hospice Care Experts
Reach out to our hospice care team at Harbor Light Hospice today to learn more about how our team seeks to overcome recent barriers created between hospice care workers and patients in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our knowledgeable professionals can answer your questions and help you determine whether or not hospice care is right for you during the COVID-19 outbreak or sometime in the future.