The role of hospice during this national emergency
(Alexandria, Va) – We are amid a global pandemic that challenges and strains all of us, our institutions, and the entire fabric of our economy and democracy. It is disorienting for all and paralyzing for many, but those in our community must engage and respond. There has never been a more important time to be ambassadors of the kind of person-centered, serious illness care that our country is going to need.
Indeed, hospice and community-based palliative care providers are going to be crucial resources to help treat and care for the hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans who are going to be impacted by COVID-19. It is also a crucial time for all of us to execute or review our advance directives. We must make sure that folks get the care they want, and do not get the care they don’t want.
It is important to remember that we as a professional community have been here before. HIV and COVID-19 are very different viruses, but both are contagious diseases that were not fully understood at the time. Fear ruled, and the government and traditional health care system at first shied away. Hospice was then in its infancy in the United States, and yet our community—hospice pioneers—leaned in to help.
Although many of us are sheltered in place, and concerned about hospital capacity, we will soon be inundated by community need for care. In hotspots like New York City, this is already happening. This can be pre-hospital, post-hospital, or instead-of hospital care. Most of this care will not be end-of-life hospice care, but almost all of it will require the skills and talents of a community-based interdisciplinary team that is skilled at providing serious illness care in the community.
Provider Community Call to Action
So, here’s my ask of the hospice and palliative care provider community—and my call and promise to the nation—during these uncertain times:
- Lean in. Ask what you can do to help, and help. Focus on care and compassion.
- Stay safe! Although our commitment is to care for all those who need our services, we must protect our hospice and palliative care staff. We are working with government and industry to provide the protective equipment we need to make visits to our patients.
- We are all in this together. This is an all hands on-deck moment, and we need to rise to the challenge. Go big, get magnanimous, and there’s no room for any of us to be small and petty.
- Practice self-care. You cannot care for others unless you are well yourself. Eat right, exercise, do yoga, dance, or do anything else that helps you recharge.
This crisis is horrible. And yet, it is also our time as professionals to show our mettle. We as a field have been arguing that we need flexibilities in hospice to achieve our fullest potential. We are about to get flexibilities new to us.
I thank all those in the hospice and palliative care community for your work and commitment to the people we care for. NHPCO promises to be right there alongside you as we lead person-centered care. It is our time to step up, to lean in, and to be as large as this moment.
by Edo Banach, JD
President and CEO
NHPCO has created a page of information and links for providers at nhpco.org/coronavirus.
As the leading organization representing integrated, person-centered healthcare, NHPCO gives ongoing inspiration, practical guidance, and legislative representation to hospice and palliative care providers so they can enrich experiences for patients and ease caregiving responsibilities and emotional stress for families.
Vice President, Communications