As hospices struggle with the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak, some are finding additional support from their local communities, building relationships that could extend beyond this time of crisis. Supply shortages, staffing and volunteer challenges are some of the issues that communities are addressing as they come together with their local hospice and health care providers.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought many struggles and hardships in its wake, from economic downfalls to climbing death tolls. Despite the pandemic’s severity, a sense of unity has been as communities worldwide band together to lend a helping hand where its needed most.
“Hospitals, hospices and home health organizations are working together to care for people — sharing personnel and resources to ensure that the community gets the care it needs,” said John Morris, M.D., chief medical officer of Teleios Collaborative Network in North Carolina. “Volunteers are making protective gowns for health care workers. Painting companies are donating protective masks for health care providers. One hospice is treating its stressed home care providers to take-out meals to support the local restaurants.”
Community collaborations with hospice providers have been on the rise as the pandemic continues. Small businesses and local restaurants have been working with hospices to provide patients with meals, even as they contend with widespread closures.
“Companies have stepped up,” said Thomas Cornwell, M.D., executive chairman of Home Centered Care Institute (HCCI), senior medical director of Village Medical at Home, part of Chicago-based VillageMD, and founder of Northwestern Medicine HomeCare Physicians. “Distilleries are switching production over to make hand sanitizer, and some are giving it away for free. There’s [also] 3-D printers that make plastic material parts for ventilators.”
Providing supplies and basic needs is vitally needed support as hospice care teams face limitations in providing patient care. Shelter-in-place orders have strained hospice staffing and volunteer workforces as they struggle to address challenges of increasing home-base care.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought home-based medical care to the forefront as more patients are confined to their homes, causing many providers to struggle to meet patient needs when in-person visits are not advised to reduce exposure in the event of suspected infection, according to a HCCI webinar,
To continue addressing patient and community needs, hospice providers have increased their flow of information with one another, sharing more free resources, tools and strategies to cope with the impacts of COVID-19. Collaborative information is bringing hospices closer to ties to their local communities, it is also uniting competing providers and organizations as well.
“Our collective voice is always stronger than our individual voices, which is important now more than ever,” said Sara Dado, senior director of clinical programs for Joliet Area Community Hospice. “Ultimately, this benefits patients, providers and organizations as we can disseminate information to more people in a timely way. It is crucial for hospice leaders in a time like this to have access to timely and accurate information.”
The pandemic has created significant immediate need, with the magnitude of long-term effects still taking shape. While there is much to figure out ahead, the community ties hospices are knitting together now could withstand future benefits long after the crisis resolves.
“These collaborations improve communication and develop relationships that help provide better holistic care for patients in any community,” said Morris. “Hopefully, after the crisis the relationships built between medical providers and community social support will help us all provide better, more holistic care for our communities.”