How Telehealth Helps Patients and Caregivers During Hospice Care

Recently, Jody Holmes-Dion (Director of Operational Consulting for Hospice at WellSky) shared her experiences and perspectives on the future state of hospice care and how virtual care will continue to play a critical role for patients and caregivers:

  • Overcoming Obstacles Due to Restricted Access: “We had many facilities that didn’t allow any disciplines in. Most facilities would allow at least the nurse, and possibly the aide but almost 100% of our social work and chaplain visits were remote. So, our video, as well as our telecommunications were really essential in helping support those families and patients with their spiritual and emotional needs, and you add the complicated factor, with patients and facilities where the loved ones weren’t allowed to visit and see their loved ones for months on end, it was very challenging. The families relied on us to be their eyes and ears and their support more so than ever before.”
  • Engaging and Educating Family Caregivers: “Telehealth really gave us opportunities for teaching, allowed us to bring multiple participants multiple family members onto virtual visits. Some of those virtual visits actually involved all the IDT members in our case and it allowed goals of care conversations to happen… We were monitoring clinical signs and symptoms of certain conditions remotely. We were doing an advanced care planning conversations and goals of cares remotely. We were doing environmental home safety checks remotely.”
  • Reducing Caregiver Stress: “It also helped reduce caregiver stress. Telehealth really allowed us to provide that live in-person training, when that caregiver really needed it the most. A lot of times in the middle of the night, when they could really reach out to us and have that that voice out there that they knew that they could talk to and we gave them not only things to do and things to intervene, but also encourage them and built them up and told them that they were doing a good job, because caregiving during the pandemic was really a very lonely, lonely position to be in. It also, I feel increased care adherence because that face to face with the provider and that ability for that patient and family to reach back out to that provider really sort of develop that sense of almost an agreement, that they knew that we were checking in. They knew they were there for support.  One of the one of the big things that I saw during the pandemic was really our ability to use telehealth to provide that emotional, psychosocial and spiritual support of patients and families, particularly facility patients when our social workers and chaplains were requested to be remote during that care time.  In some cases, when our clinicians arrived and in-person, it might not been a time when that caregiver had that need. So, it’s the ability to, maybe we made an in-person visit on that day, but the ability to have that real time reach out, I have a question now, really made a big difference, and really made us open our eyes around that real need for that family to have that personal connection and be able to reach out and get those questions answered.”
  • Bridging Gaps in Care with Ongoing Communications about Adherence: “It makes care more effective by bridging the gap in care where providers can obtain additional support for symptom management and, and it engages patients. Telehealth can be used for outreach, reminders. We oftentimes used it for medication reminders. We’ve used it for reminders for caregivers, around repositioning patients, so telehealth really adds additional bandwidth to this aim of value based purchasing and in improving outcomes.”
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