Washington State Health Advocacy Association has been presenting Zoom programs on various topics.
Last Monday, June 8, the question was "What is happening in the health system with COVID-19, and what can we expect ahead?"
The presenters were doctors and medical directors with Providence Hospice and Swedish Health Systems, They included Stacey Jones, Bruce Smith, and Dale Reisner.
The good news around COVID-19 is that only two countries in the world--India and Brazl--are currently seeing increasing numbers of new cases. The United States has at the most recent count, 23,000 new
cases, compared to Brazil's 29,000 new cases. Our numbers are down.
What has changed during the COVID-19 period in terms of patient care? Many of the most ill are under the Hospice program, which is part of Palliative Care. Both programs work to manage symptoms, not to extend life.
Hospice is for patients whose doctors have signed off that there is a good likelihood that they will not live past six months. Palliative Care has no such limitation. Dr. Smith says, though, that they have a patient who has been on Hospice off and on for five years.
Hospice is a program, not a place, although there are a few stand-alone Hospice Centers. Hospice can be done in a nursing home, an assisted living community, an adult family home or a private home. The program includes a nurse, a social worker, a chaplain, and home health aids. There is also bereavement support.
These days, the professionals do more of their work on the phone than in the past. But the face to face visits,with the professional wearing protective gear, are still happening on a more limited basis.. For many, the new protocol works well, especially for those whose loved ones live far away and can't fly to Seattle.
The hospice professionals told of a 90-something woman with dementia who received the surprise of her life. Her sister and daughter couldn't come to visit her. Her social worker asked her daughter,"Is there anything your mother would wish for, if it were possible?" The daughter didn't take much time to think about it. "She has always wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel. She is a very religious person." Through the magic of a Zoom virtual tour, this woman was able to see exactly what she had pinned her hopes on, and her daughter was able to enjoy the tour at the same time.
For the future, it's likely that some of the new changes may continue.