It’s been hard for me to write anything in the past several weeks. Every day, new rules and policies and procedures are introduced to help the hospice agency work safely with our patients during the growing pandemic. Board and care and nursing/rehab facilities were the first to ban non-medical staff from visiting our patients living there. Then came the suggestion that we “visit” as many patients as possible by phone rather than in person. Later it was a new rule, not just a suggestion, with exceptions for patients near death.
As frustrated as I felt dealing with my patients from afar, I can only imagine what the hospice patients were feeling. Isolation, quarantine, physical distancing, all at a time when many patients wanted and needed more contact, more comfort. People with whom I had already established a relationship seem okay with phone contact, at least for now. But how does one develop trust with a phone call? My newer patients tended to keep the conversation short.
As staff, we were told to maintain a distance of six feet between us and the next person. This is hard in a relatively small office space. Meetings were limited to 10 people or less. Monday is a slower day, so I managed to keep my distance, but on Tuesday it was difficult if not impossible, with most of the staff there.
Meanwhile, my younger son was putting pressure on me to work from home, as he was doing. “You’re over 65,” he said. Last Monday, I talked to my director, and she gave her okay. It’s still not clear whether or not I need to have face to face visits on initial spiritual assessments. Hopefully that will get cleared up this coming week.
I like talking to my patients and families from home. I’m comfortable, and it’s so much easier to talk without people around to listen in or distract me. The charting room in the office is a noisy place, and my home is quiet.
Still, I worry that the quality of my contacts is not as high. I want to reassure each person and family that I am still 100% there for them. I want them to feel safe at home or in their facility. I want them to know that they are loved, and that I am here to listen.
At the same time, I’m going through so many emotions personally as the coronavirus spreads quickly through the country and around the world. I have to ground myself each morning and throughout each day, knowing that I am safe and secure in the loving embrace of the Divine. I am following all of the safety precautions as well.
I know we will get through this, and will look back on this time as an incredible learning experience and a lesson in compassion.