Hospice of the Chesapeake joined hundreds of hospice and community-based palliative care provider members of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in adding their name to the national Commitment to Care sign-on letter. This letter demonstrates a groundswell of support from hospice and palliative care providers who are committed to serving patients and families impacted by COVID-19.
The letter can be found online here. It reads in part:
Patients impacted by the coronavirus rely on the interdisciplinary, person-centered care that the community-based hospice and palliative community provide. The hospice philosophy of care focuses on caring for the whole person by addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and is provided by an interdisciplinary team comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers, home health aides, chaplains, bereavement professionals, volunteers, and allied therapists. As more hospitals reach maximum capacity, patients continue to be discharged back into the community and the demand for symptom management and emotional and spiritual support grows.
The hospice and community-based palliative care providers who signed on to NHPCO’s letter are demonstrating their commitment to continue to treat patients, ensuring that patients do not die alone, and in some cases, saving lives.
Hospice of the Chesapeake has made wholesale changes to how its team cares for patients, taking extraordinary measures to honor its commitment of caring for life throughout the journey with illness and loss. Rather than calling it social distancing, the provider prefers to call it physical distancing, to emphasize the importance of patients and families staying socially connected.
In response, clinical teams make window visits in facilities that have restricted access to its residents, telehealth in the cases where access is prohibited and abide by a strict protocol of top to bottom personal protective gear when warranted. Patients being cared for in the organization’s two inpatient care centers are allowed visitors, again, physically distanced and with proper PPE, which the organization provides. Grief support groups continue, but all are now via telehealth, as are most one-on-one counseling sessions.
Hospice of the Chesapeake President and CEO Ben Marcantonio said that the organization he leads has been caring for people at their end of life for more than 40 years and its history comes with a wealth of experience on how to provide comfort and dignity for those living with advanced illnesses. Marcantonio said his leadership team is proud to be one of hundreds of other hospice and palliative care organizations signing the letter of commitment to the nation. “The numbers reported every day of the casualties of this deadly disease can take away from the fact that each of our patients, with and without coronavirus, is an individual with a story, and very importantly, with a family,” he said. “We are a specialty that is focused on the whole being, and that includes their loved ones. Now more than ever we must remind the world of the sanctity of each human life and our dedication to making those final days the very best they can be.”
“I am proud that so many NHPCO members have been stepping forward to care for patients impacted by COVID-19 during this public health crisis. The hospice and palliative care community has faced similar unknowns in the past with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We did not run away during uncertain times – instead, we chose to care for patients in need with honor and respect, and we will continue to fulfill that mission today,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach.
More information about hospice, palliative care, and advance care planning is available from hospicechesapeake.org or from NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org.