COVID-19: Working With and Supporting Community Care Partners
While Ohio’s Hospice and its staff have been on the front lines of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we also recognize that the hospitals, physician offices, nursing home and assisted living communities with which we partner have been working and sacrificing on the front lines as well. So much of the Ohio’s Hospice response to the pandemic has also involved supporting community care partners.
Commenting on the amount and transparency of communications with community care partners, particularly at the outset of the emergency, Ohio’s Hospice Chief Strategy Officer Kerry Hamilton says, “I think that we were well connected with our partners in ways that others probably were not. In many ways, we were looked to as a resource for vital information. Many of our senior living partners were apprehensive and fearful. We were able to provide the information they needed to formulate their own response to the pandemic. They appreciated the transparency. We also shared the reality of what was happening with Ohio’s Hospice.”
The first item on the agenda was to compile a master list, market-by-market, of the COVID-19 policies and procedures at each nursing home and assisted living community as they related to hospice patients. “Our referral sources were thrilled with that because they felt we were there to support them. We weren’t causing them any additional stress,” says Gail Stokes, senior director of Business Development. “We kept an updated database for all Ohio’s Hospice clinical staff, so before they would go to a building they knew what they needed to do to comply with that facility’s particular safety protocols.”
The Ohio’s Hospice support for community care partners also meant recognizing the hardship they faced on a daily basis and making sure the staff knew they were appreciated. “At the start of the pandemic, we brought in lunch to various nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” explains Jonathon Smith, Business Development team leader. “We wanted to support local restaurants and local businesses, to help them out during this difficult time.” In addition to lunch, Ohio’s Hospice community liaisons assembled and dropped off goodie bags, or “kindness baskets,” filled with snacks and thank-you cards for every employee at a nursing home or assisted living community.
According to Business Development Team Leader Karen Parziale-McFall, in some areas, Ohio’s Hospice held box-lunch, socially-distanced parking lot picnics where facility staff could offer suggestions as to how Ohio’s Hospice could continue to support patients and their families as well as staff. In other areas, Ohio’s Hospice joined with other local providers and businesses to stage drive-by parades, often recognizing three or four nursing homes and assisted living facilities in a day with decorated cars, hand-made signs, horns-a-honking and leave-behind thank-you goodie-bags.
Ohio’s Hospice also facilitated virtual networking events for local healthcare professionals, bringing in Ohio’s Hospice counselors and other experts to offer tips and counseling on topics like self-care, grief and loss, and care planning.
“It’s about more than meeting immediate community need,” Hamilton says. “It’s about being an indispensable member of the community, understanding community need, and having the resources and the in-house expertise to respond to those needs.”