Let’s not forget the vital role hospice provides for end-of-life care

Published in Wellness Hospice Tag:

Author: Staff

As many of us are patiently waiting for things to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, those who have a terminal illness, or a critical diagnosis do not have the luxury of waiting. For these individuals, time marches on.

Carris Health - Rice Hospice has been providing dedicated and caring end-of-life care for more than 38 years.

Hospice is for people who have serious and advanced medical conditions with a life expectancy of six months or less and want to focus on comfort and quality of life during the time that remains.

Hospice care also generally involves close contact between providers, volunteers, patients, family members and their caregivers. Although we know that being close to others is the opposite of what most are being told to do during this time of social distancing.

Fortunately, Carris Health - Rice Hospice continues to provide support during this time of uncertainty. While how the care is being provided may need to be altered to help protect our patients, families and staff, there is much that has not changed, including the professionalism and dedication of hospice care.

Continuing vital services for those with serious illnesses

Volunteer Services Manager, Deb VanBuren speaks with Mary Beth Potter, Director for Carris Health - Rice Hospice while therapy dog, Max, hangs out.

With all of the stress, disruptions, demands and fear that a public health crisis can bring, it’s important to embrace the comfort and care that hospice provides loved ones facing a terminal prognosis. Patients and families need support now more than ever.

Learning about the available services and taking the first step to enlist hospice will allow families to find the help they need at the end of life and know that they do not have to take this journey alone.

“The hospice team members were extremely caring and professional. We appreciated this as a family,” said Ryan U. from Madison, Minn. “This was my first time going through this and they told me what to expect as we went down this path. They checked in frequently and always kept me informed.”

Managing care at the end of life is often overwhelming for family members. The fear, sadness and anger can quickly lead to caregiver burnout. On top of all the stress involved with caring for a loved one, caregivers might now be worried about contracting coronavirus, or have fewer support system members available due to social distancing requirements. Hospice provides a sense of structure and support for families, often in the comfort of the patient’s own home.

“Hospice has been invaluable to us in that the hospice aide has brought so much needed help,” shared Linda W. from Benson, Minn. “The whole team has been so accommodating in working with us in creating a schedule so we can take care of mom. We are so thankful to be able to keep her home during this time, and it would not have been possible without the wonderful Carris Health - Rice Hospice team.”

Donna Jo, a musician, sings to a patient in a nursing home at a social distance. Music therapy has been found to be therapeutic for those nearing the end of their life.

Safely caring for our patients

Like many services during this time of COVID-19, our hospice team has adjusted the way we safely support our patients and families.

  • We now call ahead to do a pre-screening prior to our visits.
  • We wear a mask, eye protection and other personal protective equipment as part of our “uniform”.
  • We might schedule some of our time with you as video visits.
  • For those who reside in care facilities, our visit schedule may have changed to follow the facility guidelines for maintaining the safety and health of all residents.

Judie, a social worker, and Donna Jo, a musician, use FaceTime to connect with a hospice patient in a nursing home. The patient loved to hear Donna Jo sing and said she remembered her and her voice as she also sang at her mother’s funeral.

While there are many unknowns and information and guidelines change rapidly during this pandemic, the dedicated professionals at hospice remain focused on providing individualized care and a calming presence in a safe environment for patients and families.

“Hospice is incredible! They take every safety precaution during this pandemic, including wearing masks all the time,” explained Brad S. from Willmar, Minn. “They are so considerate of the current situation. They keep me informed and are wonderful to deal with.”

Volunteering for good

The hospice care team includes a compassionate group of volunteers who have faithfully assisted the program in whatever way is needed during this challenging time. Hospice patients and their loved ones rely heavily on volunteers who provide additional support and comfort during the final stages of a patient’s life. However, their ability to do so at this time has been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When hugs and handshakes are not allowed and visitors are restricted, our volunteers are finding creative ways to show they care.

As a hospice volunteer, LuAnne has been helping sew masks and caps at home.

LuAnne M., a volunteer with Hospice explains, “The role of hospice volunteers may have changed, but the mission of hospice – to do all we can for patients and families – has not. When we received a call asking volunteers to help by sewing caps and masks, I felt this was one way I could help, and it was the right thing to do.”

Hospice volunteers have hearts of gold and will continue to step into new roles as we navigate the twists and turns of this public health crisis.

At the very end

Hospice members are privileged to serve some of the most vulnerable patients in our communities during one of the most uncertain times in their lives. Carris Health - Rice Hospice provides services in the communities of Appleton, Benson, Dawson, Montevideo, Granite Falls, Ortonville, Graceville, Willmar and surrounding areas. Carris Health - Redwood also provides hospice services in Redwood Falls.

Mary Beth Potter, Director,
Carris Health - Rice Hospice

“We recognize that this can be a difficult time, and we want to be there to help,” said Mary Beth Potter, Director of Carris Health - Rice Hospice. “We continue to listen, serve and provide support. We want people to be aware of the hospice and palliative care services that are available so they’re able to get the help needed for themselves and their loved ones.”