As a key way to connect, hospice visits adapt to pandemic

Virtual visits and writing notes help families connect with their loved ones

An elderly person lies in bed with headphones on, looking at a digital tablet with a worker helping, in an example of hospice visits

Hospice agencies throughout the Good Samaritan Society and Sanford Health are navigating uncharted territory during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically, when clients receive hospice services, visits from loved ones are common and encouraged. But now, it’s a necessity that hospice visits take place virtually through social media or other technology.

Learn more: Good Samaritan Society hospice services and Sanford Health hospice services

Family members also are encouraged to keep in touch with loved ones by mailing letters or sending messages online using the Good Samaritan Society’s Send a Note service.

“We have letters and notes going through the website like wildfire,” said Travis Weber, hospice administrator at Good Samaritan Society – Hospice in Nisswa, Minnesota.

The Nisswa agency serves people in their own homes or at nursing homes in and around Brainerd, Minnesota, including the three Good Samaritan Society locations there.

Connecting creatively

Because clients now have less face-to-face contact with family members, staff members are taking creative measures to keep them connected.

Weber says the hospice nurses all have iPhones, and if they get approval from families, they can call them so they can FaceTime with the client.

“Our staff and the staff at our facilities are doing everything they can to make those connections,” he said.

The hospice team has been using social media for chaplains and social workers to spend time with clients.

The social work and spiritual work teams also have been busy making calls to family members.

As for in-person hospice visits, the Nisswa agency is taking each situation on a case-by-case basis.

When someone in a nursing home is deemed to be transitioning in their health or actively dying, the Nisswa agency gives the option for a loved one to come in and spend as much time with the client as they want.

However, they can’t leave the building and come back in again.

“It’s the craziest give and take there is,” Weber said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure everyone is safe.”

If a client is at the end stages of life and a visitor isn’t with him or her, the hospice staff makes sure that no one dies alone.

Weber says the agency nurses are continually reaching out to see how they can help clients and family members during this challenging time.

“In the end, we have the best interests of our clients and staff at the heart of it all,” he said.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Hospice, Senior Services

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