COVID-19 has definitely created new challenges for hospice professionals. Right now, they are struggling to provide high quality care, comfort and emotional support for terminally ill patients and their families while also trying to sustain enough cash flow, supplies and PPE on a daily basis to keep their agencies running and their staff members safe.
Unfortunately, that’s the state of affairs today for many agencies, but there are creative ways that hospice professionals can make things better. They just have to learn to think outside the box, according to Kelly Anderson, Administrator of Canon Hospice, who offered suggestions in a webinar on “Creative Ways for Hospices to Manage the COVID-19 Crisis.” View the webinar.
Kelly, who has been with Canon Hospice for 10 years and helped grow the agency to become a leader in the space with three locations in Louisiana and one in Mississippi, provides community education on the hospice benefits afforded through federal state and private policy benefits. “Our mission is to provide exceptional, compassionate and holistic care for all of our patients and loved ones to make every moment meaningful,” Kelly says.
In the webinar, Kelly shares about her agency’s experiences during COVID-19 and offers these tips to help other hospice professionals:
- Don’t give up on government and other loan options. Explore economic injury disaster loans and grants or small business/debt relief loans to keep your cash flow going. Leverage the Accelerate and Advanced Payments Program or the Paycheck Protection Program. There are options out there to help you. You just have to keep looking.
- Expand your list of suppliers and stay on top of them. Calling vendors regularly for updates has helped Canon Hospice avoid running out of PPE and supplies, Kelly shares. “I used two vendors prior to this; now I have multiple,” she said. “We’re constantly having to get updates from our supply chains. When is this coming in? When was this ordered? How long has this been delayed? How am I going to cover my gap?”
- Ask for donations from volunteer groups. “We asked on Facebook, is anyone making the cloth masks? Can you donate some for our healthcare professionals?” Kelly said. “You would not believe the response we got from that. It’s been excellent.”
- Swap supplies with other hospice agencies. Does your organization have plenty of masks but hardly any gowns? Call other agencies within or outside of your enterprise and see if you can make exchanges to help keep each other stocked. “I’ve been able to do that with several agencies,” Kelly shared.
- Hire hospice professionals who have been furloughed or laid off to fill in staffing gaps. To keep enough staff employed to meet your needs, find out if other agencies have had to let go of employees and offer them temporary work. They can continue working and you can cover your staffing shortages. Everybody wins.
- Use home-made cloth masks to extend the life of your N95 and surgical masks. Look for volunteer organizations that are making the cloth masks and then wear them over your N95s and surgical masks so that you can extend their use during times when masks are hard to get. You can also store your masks in breathable brown paper bags for reusage.
- Adopt technologies to protect your staff and overcome patient access restrictions. Use Telehealth and FaceTime to communicate more often with family members, patients and families and to continue best practices for reporting and documenting the patient health status. Hold virtual meetings with Zoom for weekly staff informal check-ins or virtual celebrations of life events. Explore infrared, hands-free temperature checks or heat cameras to detect temperatures at inpatient facilities.
- Continue to enforce social distancing with in-home visits. When nurses visit patients at home for check-ups, family members sometimes want everybody there to talk to the nurse. “They all want to talk to her. They want to get an update,” Kelly said. “It’s almost like a little party, but we can’t do that anymore. We contact our families ahead of time to let them know we’re coming out and make sure they understand that we do not want them to organize a gathering.”
- Stay on your referral partners’ radar. Think outside the box. Keep yourself in front of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities with things like drive-by donut deliveries, to-go lunches for the staff, or care packages with branded masks and hand sanitizers. Be creative and decorate trucks and Jeeps to celebrate holidays like Easter. “It’s a good way to get some residents outside while maintaining the six-foot distance,” Kelly says.
- Provide podcasts and virtual tours via Facebook or toll-free hotlines. Use these mediums to keep your organization in front of people by providing education and relevant information on such topics as how to deal with the loneliness or mental health issues that arise from isolation. Set up toll-free numbers for people who need to talk about the stress and pain of isolation.
These are just a few tips that were offered by Kelly during her presentation. Listen to the full webinar to hear even more insights from her as well as what other hospice professionals are doing.
Learn more about Net Health Hospice (formerly Optima Hospice).