Hospices seem to be struggling with how to provide services now that being in homes and facilities is not an option. When we cannot rely on routines, when there is no normal anymore, we have to begin thinking of new ways to provide service. We have to start thinking outside the box. We have to create new ways of providing care, new ways of getting education to our families.
Here are some “outside the box" ideas:
Use your volunteers: they have been through hospice training. They have supportive skills, conversation skills, end of life knowledge. Use them. Assign each family a volunteer. The volunteer’s job is to be a friend, a constant, during this time of isolation. Using the phone, the volunteer calls daily, morning and evening if death is close. Just checking in and reporting to the nurse if there is anything unusual or death is getting closer. That volunteer remains in contact with the family following the death as part of bereavement support.
The volunteer can tell the family they are going to drop off (on the porch, in the door, not come in, just ring the bell or knock and leave) copies of Gone from My Sight and The Eleventh Hour. No physical contact is necessary to get the needed information into the hands of the family. Once the family has the booklets they now have a guide for how their loved one is progressing in the dying process. The nurse, via a phone “visit” uses the booklets as a teaching tool. “Tell me where you think Dad is in relation to the booklet?” Let’s look at page 8. Have you seen this?” The Eleventh Hour will give families guidance in what they can do during the days to hours before death.
All of our materials are also available electronically, books as ebooks can be read on everyone's devices and our films on Vimeo can be watched from inside the patient/family home without needing a nurse to physically bring over the DVD to watch with the family. Families can rent the film themselves or agencies can call our office first for a discount code to charge the family's rental to the agency. The simplest way to get our booklets that you already have in your offices to families during this time of social distancing and limited in person visits, is to put them in your initial packets with all the paperwork that is required to bring a family on service. That initial contact person is given the booklets when signatures and information is exchanged.
The most important function of these booklets during this time of social distancing is that they become the touchstone of guidance. The family can physically track their loved one’s progress toward death while having phone contact with nurses, social workers, chaplains AND a daily contact with a volunteer.
Having someone you care about approaching the end of their life is frightening and unsettling in the best of times. Now, during this pandemic, daily support and guidance is vital. Our job, in hospice, is to neutralize the fear surrounding dying and death. We now have to figure out new ways of doing that.