Hospice care changing amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 10:03 AM, Apr 06, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – When doctors give patients six months or less to live, hospice becomes an option for added care. Nowadays, though, the coronavirus outbreak is altering what those providers do.

“I can tell you the hospice community has never faced anything like this before,” said Tony Kudner of Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, which runs programs in nearly 30 states. “Our patients are in nursing facilities and in assisted living facilities and in their private homes as well. And with some of the lockdowns, it really has been a challenge to get to the patients, especially in the nursing facility settings.”

That’s led to scenes like one captured in a photograph by Seasons: a hospice care worker having to stay outside to communicate with a patient inside a facility, unable to be by the bedside.

“We understand the place of caution that they are coming from,” Kudner said. “They want to keep everybody safe and so do we. And so, we're finding some creative solutions to still provide like you mentioned those tender moments at the bedside.”

That includes using technology like FaceTime and WhatsApp, to connect someone in hospice care with loved ones who can’t be by their side.

When allowed into a facility, those in hospice wear personal protective equipment just like other health care providers.

“The more that we can partner together to help provide that emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical support to those patients and families, that's our ‘why’ – that’s what got us here in the first place,” said Yelena Zatulovsky, Vice President of Patient Experience at Seasons.

On average, more than 1.5 million Americans enter hospice care every year.

“We're all trying to navigate through something that is unusual and unique in its vastness right now,” Zatulovsky said.

All of this is happening while helping people facing a bleak future, amid even more uncertainty.