The “new normal” has taken some getting used to. Working from home takes discipline. My dining room table has become my office, with work laptop, work phone, work calendar and my notebook of patient information front and center. I get up and walk around between calls, before charting the interaction in the computer. The dogs want attention, which they get in brief spurts. Hot tea, breakfast, and snacks sit on the sidelines.
Those connections to my patients and their families, done completely by phone, are bringing me such joy and connection. We laugh together as I listen to the latest happenings in their homes. We go deep or stay light, depending on the person’s needs and state of mind that day. The warmth and sharing make all of us feel better.
The patients and their families express ongoing gratitude for the wonderful hospice staff. We speak of their dedication in the midst of this pandemic. We marvel at the staff’s courage.
The patients and their families usually ask about my health and safety. I reassure them that I’m doing well. and often share a story about life in my town. I tell them about our weekly meetings and how different they are, with limited attendance and physical distancing. We are connected in our isolation and in our self-care.
It’s even harder for my patients in facilities. They are isolated from their families, and I can’t see them, either. Some I can contact by phone, and for others I send prayers through the staff there. I make sure to call the family members to reassure them and let them know I’m praying for their loved ones.
The people on my bereavement support list also get calls from me. We “commiserate” about our changes in daily routines, and they share how they are moving through their grief while staying at home. They talk about family support through phone calls. Some use Facetime or other means of seeing their family members while they talk together. We give thanks for technology, as it keeps us connected. I hear the joy and gratitude in their voices as we speak together. The connections are strong.
In all of my contacts, we agree that this will not last forever. There is hope, frustration, relief, and humor to be found. For our hospice patients, there is relief in no longer having to go to the hospital for care, as care comes to them at home. For the bereaved, there is relief that their loved ones don’t have to go through this pandemic. For all of us, there is prayer, shared experiences, and love.
Of course, I am looking forward to things getting back to the way they were, when I could go to patients’ homes and meet with them and their families face to face. I don’t know when that will be. I am concerned about the government pushing for businesses to reopen and life to return to “normal” too soon, causing further outbreaks and deaths. I know that our hospice organizations and nursing facilities will proceed with caution to protect the patients.
I remain grateful to be able to serve my patients and their loved ones through these interesting times. I learn, I grow, I adapt. I think we all do.