Hospice Austin RN Sara Templeton holds a patient's hand
His daughter would call, but the patient couldn’t hear her. “As the days wore on,” Sara said, “he became more and more withdrawn and was soon just…existing.” Sara wondered how she could help them stay more connected. She brought in a set of high-quality over-the-ear headphones, plugged them into the cell phone, fit them over his ears and called his daughter.
“When he heard his daughter say, ‘Hi, Daddy!’ his face just lit up,” Sara said. “He could hear her perfectly – every word!” Sara now keeps the headphones in a drawer by his bed, so he can speak with his daughter even when Sara isn’t there.
Sara and our other staff have become the surrogate eyes and ears for loved ones separated from our patients. By necessity, staff has devised new and creative ways to care for patients and their families. Our leadership team and physicians formed a COVID task force before the crisis came to Texas and have been anticipating needs, procuring PPE, setting up online platforms for visits, implementing new regulations, and staying abreast of the constantly changing guidelines from the CDC. Our highest priority is meeting the needs of our patients while keeping our patients, families, and staff safe from the virus.
We have developed a COVID-19 response team trained to exclusively care for patients who have the virus. This allows us to provide the best care tailored to the patients’ needs while preventing potential exposure to other patients. The team is made up of nurses, certified nursing assistants, a social worker and chaplain. They are primarily visiting patients in the home, both in person as needed and virtually.
Many patients without the virus are preferring virtual rather than in-person visits, either through online video conferencing or phone calls. Chaplain Nettie Reynolds records and sends blessings and prayers on her phone customized for her patients and their families. They already know her voice, and so they can listen to it whenever they need to.
Chaplain Nettie Reynolds records blessings for patients on her phone
“We’re all trying to figure out ways to support our patients right now,” Nettie said. “I can’t take their blood pressure, but I can lower their internal pressure with a blessing. It’s an intervention, and that’s important clinically.”
Of course, our staff is available for in-person visits whenever it’s needed. Thanks to the generosity of the community, we are well-supplied with masks, gloves, face protection and other PPE.
Nurse Sara Templeton visited a patient recently while wearing all the requisite gear: head covering, goggles, mask, gloves, gown. When the patient saw Sara, she smiled, grabbed her hand and said, “I know that’s your heart under all that garb!”
The Faces of Caring campaign was created for hospice and palliative care professionals to share their experience providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you would like to share your photos and stories from the front lines, please go to nhpco.org/faces-of-caring.