What To Ask Your Hospice Provider During COVID-19
5 Questions To Ask To Find Your Best Hospice ProviderEach hospice agency has slightly different policies and strategies for navigating hospice and palliative care services within the CDC and WHO pandemic framework. Asking the right questions of your hospice provider during a pandemic will help you select the one that can best care for you as a client, while also protecting the wellbeing of the extended family and caregivers as well as honoring your desire for human-to-human, soul-to-soul connection if that is a need for you.
Are you currently accepting new clients?Like the clients we serve, hospice agencies come in all shapes, sizes, cultures, and ways of being. So, while larger and medium hospice agencies are typically able to accommodate a steady new flow of clients, others have to put potential clients on short-term waiting lists as they work with the staff they have and the restrictions they have in place. As one of Georgia’s premier, non-profit hospice agencies of 40+ years, we are fortunate to be able to take new clients onto our rosters at any time. That said, we always advocate contacting hospice providers and signing up for service as soon as you are eligible so that you have the opportunity to optimize their available services.
Are you accepting hospice clients that test positive for COVID-19?We are most certainly accepting hospice clients that test positive for COVID-19. With our precautions in place, and a patient-specific care plan, your COVID-19 case does not hinder your ability to register for high-quality hospice or palliative care in any way.
Are you able to accommodate in-person visits?Again, depending on the size of the provider and their staff, the ability to accommodate in-person visits vary. Every hospice agency should be able to guarantee regular and timely in-person visits from hospice nurses, nursing assistants, and the physician (as needed). However, some agencies have shifted the way services are provided by other members of the care team such as the social worker, chaplain or spiritual counselor, volunteers, etc. For some agencies, services offered in the social-emotional realm are strictly offered via phone and video platforms. Others are providing those services as they always have, while most are providing in-person services in a modified manner – replacing in-person visits with secure video or telephone options. If in-person visits are a priority for you, make this known immediately so prospective agencies can let you know whether that is even an option. A prospective hospice service provider who can’t meet your needs may be able to refer you to other hospice providers that still offer in-person options.
What precautions is the hospice provider putting into place to minimize infection risk?Regardless of which services are offered in-person, and how often, the health and safety of both the client, their family/household members, and our caregivers are always the number one priority. In-person visits will always mean that our caregiving team and volunteers are appropriately sanitized, masked, and potentially gowned, gloved, and shielded – depending on the types of care they are providing. As you can imagine, non-essential healthcare services that do not require touch are offered at a distance of six feet or more. Similarly, hospice houses and administrative offices that are still allowed to have in-person visits from family and loved ones will require that visitors and guests honor our pandemic health and safety protocols. These various guidelines, restrictions, and mandates vary from month to month, week to week, and (sometimes it feels like) day-to-day. Please be patient with us as we learn to navigate these ever-changing waters. Your willingness to have grace and patience with rules you may not agree with allows us to keep our doors open to better serve you and your family.
How are you providing emotional, spiritual, and mental support for patients?First and foremost, we want clients to know that our hospice agency provides emotional, spiritual, and mental support to our clients and their families. The client’s loved ones are equally essential in the hospice equation. While we certainly hold the client’s health and comfort at the pinnacle of our service pyramid, we know through and through that, the emotional, spiritual and mental support we provide is what makes hospice and palliative care so special. All of the services that support the social-emotional wellbeing of the client and family should still be available – even if it takes place via phone or secure video connections. These services are provided by both staff and volunteers. Some of the most common providers of social-emotional support offered by hospice include:
- Designated social workers for each case to keep a finger on the social-emotional pulse of the client and their immediate families/loved ones
- Both licensed and volunteer peer counselors
- Chaplains and spiritual counselors
- Grief support therapists and volunteers (Grieving has been so painful in a time where in-person connections – including funerals and memorials have all but disappeared. Read Griefing From Six Feet Away for more about that topic and some resources)
- Group grief support
- Volunteers that provide companionship, cheer, music therapy, errand running and grocery shopping, respite care (providing a break for primary caregivers), etc.