Hospice care during the COVID-19 pandemic is a tremendous support to families and patients. Following established safety and hygiene protocols helps keep everyone safe. It’s possible to blend compassionate care with safe practices, and many terminally ill patients prefer being at home with loved ones instead of in a hospital setting. Hospice caregivers at Three Oaks Hospice are already used to adapting their care practices to deal with infectious diseases, such as the flu or common cold, so they are familiar with following CDC guidelines and keeping up on research into new care practices for emerging diseases.

Benefits of Home Hospice Care During the Pandemic

Hospice care provided by Three Oaks Hospice is performed in the patient’s home, which makes it less risky for the patient because there’s no travel to outside locations involved. Treatments for pain can be administered at home as well, reducing the need for outside doctor’s appointments or emergency room visits. Hospice caregivers provide emotional connections and support as well as helping patients physically move around in the home and take care of personal needs, so they help relieve loneliness. While it may seem that bringing hospice caregivers into a home is risky during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are measures you can take to make the process safer for everyone. Someone who needs care during a terminal illness may be safer interacting with just a small team of caregivers instead of moving into a nursing facility where there are more potential sources of infection. Older individuals and people with life-limiting illnesses are more at risk for complications from COVID-19, so reducing exposure is essential.

Personal Interactions During COVID-19

Like all hospice care, visits during the COVID-19 pandemic are personalized. For some patients, social distancing may be possible or telehealth could be utilized to ensure patient safety. Many services can be provided from an adjacent room or from across the room while maintaining six feet of separation. In some cases, services such as nursing, spiritual counseling, music therapy, and social work can be provided even remotely if preferred. When hospice caregivers are in close proximity to patients, they use appropriate PPE gear to minimize any exposure to coronavirus or other illnesses. Frequent handwashing helps prevent exposure to germs and viruses on household surfaces, and both caretakers and patients should try to avoid touching their faces.

Sanitation Measures to Keep Hospice Patients Safe

Since COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for a while, caregivers should keep a stock of sanitizing wipes on hand and quickly wipe down areas the patient or hospice worker has touched. A regular schedule of daily cleaning also helps keep the risk of infection down. PPE such as gloves, scrubs, masks, or face shields are worn by hospice caregivers and can provide another barrier when touching patients directly or handling frequently used items in the home.

Family Safety for Hospice Care During COVID-19

Families can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by minimizing contact with the patient. Only family members who live with the patient should remain in the household, and other relatives should restrict contact to phone calls or video conferences to ensure safety. Family members or friends who are shopping for the hospice patient or bringing home-cooked meals to the house should minimize contact as well. Choose contactless delivery for groceries and household supplies, and drop off meals on the porch instead of coming into the home. In addition to minimizing contact with the hospice patient, family members and friends who do have interaction with the vulnerable family member should try to remain as safe as possible during everyday life. This might mean reducing excursions outside the home, especially if local community transmission is high. Choose delivery options or curbside pickup instead of going into stores and restaurants, and avoid contact with anyone outside your immediate family. If you’re searching for a hospice and palliative care provider and have concerns about the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it can affect care in your home, contact Three Oaks Hospice to talk to someone on our team today.