Care Dimensions: Podcast: Care Dimensions During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Voices of Care

Podcast: Care Dimensions During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Posted on November 3, 2021 by Care Dimensions

On the latest episode of Living Forever, Not An Option, hosts Lyn Skarmeas and Mary Crowe spoke with guest Stephanie Patel, Care Dimensions’ Medical Director of more than 15 years, to discuss how Care Dimensions continued caring for patients and families during the pandemic. Because hospice is a service that is available 24/7, 365 days a year, Care Dimensions did not pause services when Covid hit. Dr. Patel recalls that in March of 2020, all staff had about three days to transition to work remotely. Most hospice services are provided in patients’ homes, so Care Dimensions had the challenge of continuing to provide services to its 1,000 patients while protecting both patients and staff from Covid-19.

Staff continued to care for patients who were both Covid positive and negative. Staff wore PPE (personal protective equipment) such as gloves, gowns, goggles, face shields and foot coverings.  Because of all the PPE that staff had to wear, it was hard for patients to recognize staff members, so Care Dimensions provided staff with larger name badges with staff photos so that patients could more easily recognize who was caring for them. Care Dimensions knows how important it is for family members to be with their loved ones at end of life, so patients in Care Dimensions’ two hospice houses were still allowed visitors who answered health screening questions about travel, symptoms, and Covid exposure. Virtual visits were also offered, which will continue when the pandemic is over.

To alleviate concerns from staff, patients and their families, Dr. Patel sent out weekly email updates with information on the virus from reliable sources such as the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Medicare. It was especially important to reassure patients that Care Dimensions staff was following all guidelines and using PPE to protect them.

The pandemic not only affected clinical staff, but also Care Dimensions’ educational programs. In a typical year, Care Dimensions provides hundreds of in-person programs for thousands of people. Mary said that education was more essential than ever because “not a person in this world has been untouched by this [pandemic].” The education department switched to live Zoom programs and webinars, which were very successful. Mary attributes the strong attendance to people’s desire for ongoing education and the need for social connection when physical distancing is encouraged.

When the Covid-19 vaccine became available, Dr. Patel connected with the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Department of Public Health to get vaccines for staff, patients and even some caregivers in all three of Care Dimensions’ lines of service – Hospice, Palliative Care and HomeMD. Dr. Patel feels that the vaccine has given everyone a sense of hope in these difficult times and allowed patients to see more of their family members.

Overall, Dr. Patel says the pandemic has taught healthcare organizations to be more watchful and prepared for public health emergencies such as Covid-19. She thinks virtual visit technology was a great addition to healthcare and that it is here to stay. She also predicts that more healthcare may move from the hospital setting into the home, where Care Dimensions has always cared for its patients.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.