Hospice programs serve a unique population – patients – and their families – who have been diagnosed with less than six months to live and for which no further curative medical treatment is available. To be brutally honest, hospice care is all about dying, but organizations such as Anderson’s PruittHealth Hospice and Palliative Care support dying with dignity, with family present and involved and with as little pain as possible.
A simple doctor’s referral enables the hospice team, consisting of a medical director, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, a volunteer chaplain, a social worker and a nurse practitioner, to step in to assist the patient and family as they journey together through the closing season of their loved one’s life. Under normal conditions, hospice makes the final months, weeks and days as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
The arrival of COVID-19 presented an unwanted complication to providing quality end-of-life care. Patients were no longer seeing their doctors routinely and, consequently, were not being referred to hospice in a timely manner. Families were afraid to have home visitors who might possibly introduce the virus to their already vulnerable loved one or themselves. However, during this uncertain time, not one PruittHealth Hospice employee hesitated to continue with home or assisted-living assignments – a tribute to the dedication and commitment level of these professionals.
For Lynn Brooks, administrator at PruittHealth Hospice, “Education became our top priority. We needed to put more safety layers and protocols in place, even though our profession already has some of the highest, most stringent safety standards. This included having the right personal protection equipment, especially for those entering family homes. We also added weekly employee testing, a daily screening process for every employee and screening of patients before each visit.”
All our employees are now fully vaccinated. Nothing is going to stop hospice care.
Hospice families are also doing their part to keep everyone safe. They are now requesting and being provided with protective equipment, and many hospice patients and families are also seeking COVID vaccinations. According to Brooks, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, at 866-365-8110, offers a home-based vaccination program.
During the lockdowns of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, hospice teams were allowed to continue their regular visits. Hospice nurses, aides, social workers and chaplains often were able to set up Facetime and phone calls to connect hospice patients with their family members during these visits. For those at home, who were already facing anticipatory grief, and for patients dealing with the forced isolation of the lockdowns, these times of connecting have been priceless. The Greenville office of PruittHealth even encouraged volunteer musicians to play outside the windows of their hospice patients’ rooms to break the daily monotony and bring some joy to those isolated by COVID protocols.
In addition to its traditional hospice program, PruittHealth now also offers a new palliative care program designed for those with a life expectancy of six to 18 months and still possibly receiving some form of medical treatment for their condition.
For more information, contact PruittHealth Hospice and Palliative Care at 864-226-1219 or visit www.pruitthealth.com.
By Janet E. Perrigo