As our country continues vaccinating against COVID-19 and some outbreaks are still occurring, you may wonder how this affects your access to hospice care in the home should you or a loved one be in need. Here are answers to questions you may have about hospice care during the current pandemic. Please contact us if you have further questions about any of our care services: hospice, palliative, dementia, or grief care.
Is hospice care at home available during the coronavirus pandemic?
Lower Cape Fear LifeCare remains dedicated to ensuring those in our community have access to the care they need. We are currently accepting referrals and continue to visit hospice patients. Our team members are well-versed in the prevention of infectious diseases. They are taking all precautions including the wearing of personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of our patients and loved ones during this pandemic, even those who have tested positive for COVID-19. During this pandemic, we continue to serve patients wherever they call home, including private residences, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes.
What steps are Lower Cape Fear LifeCare taking to keep patients and loved ones safe during the pandemic?
Your health, safety and peace of mind are our highest priorities when providing care. Our team is taking extra safety precautions during all face-to-face visits and is following CDC and local/state health department guidelines.
I hear that older adults and those with pre-existing conditions are at higher risk from the virus. How can you help?
- Daily fever and symptom-free certification by all visiting LCFL clinical staff
- Use of personal protective equipment to keep patients, loved ones and team members safe
- Additional hand hygiene before and after patient visits
- Encouraging all staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as availability allows
The CDC states that people who are at a higher-risk for severe illness from the coronavirus
- People aged 65 and older
- People of any age with a serious underlying medical condition
- People residing in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities
A benefit of hospice care is that it reduces the chance of hospital admissions, re-admissions and, for those who are admitted, it lessens their amount of time spent in the hospital, keeping you or a loved one safe at home during the pandemic.
As a caregiver, how can I best provide hospice care in my home during the pandemic?
The CDC says the best thing is for the patient to remain at home, unless they need medical care. Hospice patients should be kept separate from other people and pets as much as possible, limiting contact when feasible
. Having a separate room for the patient is ideal. If you have questions about other safety measures, we’re happy to answer questions to help you keep your loved one safely at home during the pandemic while receiving hospice care.
What happens if pain and symptoms can’t be managed at home?
Our hospice care centers are still available to patients and families when pain and symptoms cannot be managed at home. Although we have instituted extra safety precautions at our inpatient hospice care centers during this pandemic
, our dedication to keeping our patients comfortable and allowing for a peaceful, dignified death is still a priority. Family members are most certainly permitted to visit in accordance with modified hospice care center policies specific to the pandemic.
What if my loved one resides in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility? Can they still receive hospice care?
Lower Cape Fear LifeCare works with many individual assisted living and skilled nursing facilities to safely care for patients even during the pandemic. Our team follows all guidelines instituted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to meet the criteria set by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that allow entry of hospice care staff into nursing homes. It is important that these patients continue to receive the care they need even during COVID-19. Hospice care adds an extra layer of support for patients and their family members who may not be permitted to visit at this time.
Kelly Erola, MD, FAAHPM, FAAFP, is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, based in Wilmington, NC, where she has worked since 2017. Previously, she was Chief Medical Officer for Hospice Savannah, Inc. for 16 years and physician leader of the Steward Center for Palliative Care. Dr. Erola is board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine and has been involved full-time in palliative care since 2002