Although all industries have been affected by COVID-19, the hospice care industry has been especially impacted. Most notably, the relationships between the hospice care workers and their patients have changed, with a lot of services moving to a virtual platform. While this is not the most ideal scenario for many, it is important to note that patients can still receive the care they need and improve their quality of life while also remaining properly protected from the coronavirus.
Hospice Care in Telehealth
Telehealth is healthcare provided remotely via telephone, video chat, or other virtual communication methods. It frequently involves the use of smart devices such as laptops and smartphones and video communication applications such as Zoom. Hospice care is utilizing telehealth now more than ever due to COVID-19 and the health risks it presents. Telehealth keeps both the hospice care workers and the patients safer, while still offering a way for patients to continue receiving necessary care.
Each hospice care patient may have a different experience with telehealth. For example, a patient who meets with the hospice care chaplain regularly may shift the visits to an online platform, rather than in-person visits. Home health aides, nurses and social workers may also utilize telehealth as an alternative to in-person visits.
When necessary visits are required, the hospice care professionals can still provide in-person visits, although they will wear more personal protective equipment (PPE) than usual. However, for visits where the primary goal is to check-in on the patient or provide a service that can easily be provided on a virtual platform, telehealth provides an excellent alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Virtual Hospice Care Works
As mentioned, virtual hospice care looks different for every patient and every hospice worker, depending on the needs and preferences of the individual patient. However, most patients will experience at least minor changes in their hospice care plan that involves using telehealth and virtual platforms to provide effective care and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hospice care teams will assess the current care plan for the patient when deciding which areas can be effectively and safely transitioned into virtual hospice care. Of course, the essential services that a patient requires, such as intravenous (IV) medication and essential physical therapy, can continue in-person, although hospice care workers will take extra precautions by wearing proper PPE and ensuring they work in a clean environment.
All other areas that do not require the physical presence of a hospice care worker, such as counseling, emotional support therapies, symptom check-up and management and prayer sessions, can temporarily shift to virtual hospice care. Telehealth communication typically involves a video call with a hospice care worker, which may include discussion of how the patient is doing, having the patient manage their own symptoms (temperature, blood pressure, etc.) and offering support and counseling.
Promotion of Safety
COVID-19 poses a great risk to most terminally ill patients. This is because the virus disproportionally affects those who have underlying conditions or a weakened immune system. Due to this, it is essential for patients to do everything possible to minimize the chance of contracting the coronavirus. The primary purpose of virtual hospice care during COVID-19 is to promote safety and protect patients, while still offering a way for all patients to get the care and assistance they need through hospice care.
Accessible to All
The best aspect of virtual hospice care is that it is available to everyone. Of course, some who are less savvy with technology and smart devices will need guidance as they begin using virtual hospice care. The hospice care team can ensure all patients have the guidance they need to properly set up their devices and use them during telehealth visits with the hospice care staff.
Although there are certain services that do require the hospice care worker to be physically present (massage therapy, acupuncture, etc.), many services can seamlessly transition to an online platform. Services that can be performed without any notable roadblocks include check-up visits with the nurse or home health aide, spiritual counseling with the hospice care chaplain and mental health counseling.
Ability to Provide Connection
Many hospice patients are at first hesitant when they hear of a temporary transition to telehealth services through virtual hospice care. The fact is most hospice care patients value their social interactions with others, and they fear they may not have the same level of connection through virtual communication.
However, virtual hospice care during COVID-19 still offers the ability to provide a strong connection between the hospice care workers and the patient. Patients can also continue social interactions with friends and family members by learning how to utilize smart devices to communicate through video communication applications.
Work With Harbor Light Hospice
You can reach out to the team at Harbor Light Hospice through phone or email to learn more about how virtual hospice care is helping patients stay safe and get the care they need during COVID-19. Get in touch with us today to find out if hospice care is right for you or a loved one suffering from a terminal illness. Our team can answer any questions you have about hospice care services and help you determine whether you could benefit from our services.