Grief in the Time of a Pandemic: How The Hospice Care Industry Cope Up

Many people suffer and die alone at this time because of COVID-19. The pandemic induced a fatality ratio of 3.46 percent worldwide as of the 4th week of August 2020.

Families and friends cannot be on the COVID-19 positive patients’ side even on their last moment. They are unable to touch and hug their loved ones. The patients not infected with COVID-19 are also affected by the lockdown rules

Hospice patients, for instance, avoided physical contact due to the changes to visitation rules.

What are hospices? And how does COVID-19 affect it?

Hospice care provides comfort to patients who have severe health conditions. This kind of care also seeks physical, emotional, and spiritual support during their remaining times. Committed hospice providers aim to extend their care to the family, and the bereavement period after the patient has departed.  It typically involves close contact between hospice staff, patients, and their families.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers implement restrictions to observe physical distancing to reduce the virus’s spread.

Facilities or nursing homes where hospice services took place had to reduce the patients from exposure to potential illnesses. They have to prevent the probability of infecting the patients and hospice staff, too. They enforce new restrictions such as limiting or prohibiting family visits.

Hospice care provided at home also follows new restricted recommendations regarding wearing personal protective equipment for the providers.

Hospice support staff may also provide other services through a helpline that is available 24/7 amid pandemic and stay-at-home rules.

Coronavirus restrictions struck everyone hard

Social distancing limits the comfort and emotional support that the patients would have received, especially when they need sympathy alongside themselves.

The same goes for the patient’s family. The grief and counseling support they would have received personally is currently running over the phone.

On the other hand, implementing such drastic measures is also tricky for hospice staff. Keeping healthy and able to come to work during this time of pandemic is also a challenge for hospice staff. Even though they also need to distance themselves from their family, because they need to isolate so that they can be at work.

Edo Banach, president and CEO of the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization discussed the needs of hospice and palliative care providers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In 2017, 4,515 hospices across the United States attended more than 1.49 million patients throughout the year. However, with all the charity shops continuing closing and fundraising events postponed because of the pandemic, hospices are currently facing funds’ insufficiency.

“You can’t argue that nursing homes shouldn’t be a priority. They are hotspots, and they are inevitably going to receive additional scrutiny and additional support. However, on the downside of this [COVID-19] curve — and on the upside of the next one — we’re going to see increased demand for [hospice and palliative care] services,” Banach said. He underscored that protection and support is also important.

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