May 5, 2020

Hospice, Palliative Care, And Grief Support Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic

Like our colleagues in hospitals and long-term care facilities, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on hospice and palliative care. Our patient population is comprised entirely of people at high risk of severe illness and death from the novel coronavirus, so our patients and families have been hyper-vigilant about staying safe. Over a third of our patients live in senior care communities (skilled nursing, assisted living, or independent living), and by necessity these facilities have had to implement stringent visit restrictions which at times include our clinicians. All of us have gotten a crash course in telemedicine.

Fortunately for Pathways, our inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) – particularly the critically-important N95 masks – was solid before the pandemic, and we are continually ordering more, but supply chain issues have resulted in orders taking weeks to arrive. The safety of our skilled and dedicated staff is of paramount importance to us, and we continue to do all that we can to mitigate risk, particularly when they are caring for COVID positive patients.

We are unable to accept COVID positive patients at the Pathways Hospice Care Center (PHCC), our 6-bed inpatient unit at McKee Medical Center in Loveland, primarily due to the lack of negative pressure rooms. This is our only limitation when it comes to caring for COVID positive patients; we are able to do so in all other settings in the community. Pathways is planning to break ground later this year on a 12-bed, freestanding inpatient care center adjacent to our offices on Carpenter Road in Fort Collins, and that facility will include at least two negative pressure rooms so we won’t have this limitation in future infectious disease emergencies.

Pathways for Grief & Loss, our community grief support program, continues to provide individual and group bereavement counseling via videoconference and phone. Sadly, our grief counseling services are needed now more than ever. Many families are experiencing the death of a loved one from afar, unable to be at the bedside because of visit restrictions that are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We can anticipate a rolling surge of clients with complicated grief in the months ahead, and our counseling staff is prepared for that eventuality.

Although COVID-19 has certainly disrupted our usual way of doing things, Pathways has risen and adapted to the challenge and is more committed than ever to ensuring that residents of northern Colorado receive the highest quality hospice, palliative care, and grief support services when they are needed most.  We will continue to fully live our mission in collaboration with our community partners throughout the healthcare system. Please be well, stay safe, continue to wear masks and maintain social distance in public, and know that we are here when you need us.

Nate Lamkin

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