Palliative Care and COVID-19

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life for almost everyone. Many healthcare systems are overwhelmed and facing situations that couldn’t have even been imagined in the not too distant past. The enormous influx of critically ill patients, combined with medical equipment shortages, has forced people to rapidly confront end-of-life situations and decisions. 

Protocols, put in place to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus, further complicate things. Restrictions prevent loved ones from visiting hospitals or care facilities leaving patients isolated in their greatest hours of need. 

It’s a situation that amplifies the necessity and value of palliative care—an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach focused on optimizing quality of life and mitigating suffering among people with serious, complex illness. They possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in the medical management of the physical aspects of dying and the emotional, psychological, social, spiritual and existential care of patients and their families who are dealing with death. Their training may make them better equipped than most to cope with the tasks of caring for large numbers of people dying in a pandemic and their families.

Social distancing prevents palliative care team members from implementing the full suite of palliative care measures normally used. For example, they have employed the use of technology, such as Zoom or other forms of online conferencing, when in-person interaction isn’t possible to talk with a patient’s loved ones about important decisions about the patient’s care. Technology can also help link team members to ensure cohesive care.

Palliative team members have also stepped in to help healthcare workers who are under enormous strain dealing with the volume and complexity of patients who are battling COVID-19, and the precautions required for providers to minimize their own risk of contracting the disease.

An article, written by Jennifer Moore Ballentine, executive director of the California State University Shiley Institute for Palliative Care, provides detailed information about the ways palliative care strengths such as communication, advance care planning and symptom management, is a much needed asset in the face of the pandemic.

Research has found that early use of palliative care services can improve the quality of life for patients with serious illness, as well as decrease depression and anxiety and increase patient and family satisfaction. In some cases, palliative care has even been credited with extending survival.

Palliative care is one of the many services offered as part of the Chandler Hall continuum of care. Our physician-led, specially trained palliative care team includes a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work collaboratively with the patient, their family and the patient’s physician to customize a plan to fit the patient’s life and needs. The team strives to help alleviate patient and family suffering, help patients and their families navigate the complexities involved with serious illness and to promote patient quality of care. Visit us online or give us a call at 267-291-2270 to talk with us about palliative care.

Chandler Hall is a Community Based Palliative Care Joint Commission Certification provider with more than 30 years of experience providing patient- and-family centric palliative care service.