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Local hospice now providing services online

April 3, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Matthew’s House Hospice is now offering online counselling and support to its community patients due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 24, it launched the “Business as Virtual” program to support palliative patients, helping them self manage at home, and the hospice is now offering virtual counselling to those experiencing grief, bereavement, and loss

“The idea is, we’re encouraging the concept of physical distance versus social distance,” said Matthew’s House CEO Kim Woodland.

The hospice has been following the province’s regulations to protect its patients and staff, but is still maintaining a sense of community.

“It’s very tough for the residents at the moment because, under provincial directives, we’ve had to limit visitation,” Woodland explained.

“Families are identifying who essential visitors are for us and they’re able to continue to visit, but just one at a time.”

Woodland said since the COVID-19 started ramping up in Ontario, it’s been very difficult for patients who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a time of confusion for anyone who might have a memory issue,” she noted.

And, as people at the hospice are passing away, they fear being alone in their final hours, Woodland explained.

“So, we are enacting lots of company, lots of companionship, all of our usual social and emotional supports to help with that,” she said.

To make residents feel less isolation, hospice staff are also teaching them to use FaceTime or video chat through iPads, smartphones, and Smart TVs to facilitate conversations with friends and family.

“We’re also leaning heavily on that technology for our community programs,” Woodland noted.

The virtual services are meant to help patients maintain connections, social interaction, decrease isolation, and reduce feelings of loneliness.

So far, it’s been very well received by hospice patients and staff.

“Residents are actually having quite a bit of fun with it,” Woodland enthused. “It can be a very great way – given the circumstances – to have those moments with family.”

Woodland told the Times the technology is set up so it’s easily accessible for patients.

“Our coordinators are also working with all of our seniors who might be less tech-savvy through the process as well,” she noted.

Woodland said Matthew’s House welcomes feedback for the program and is improving it as they go.

In addition to restricted physical visitation, staff at the hospice are ensuring everyone maintains two meters distance except when absolutely necessary and has taken other protective measures as well.

“Everyone is being screened as they come into the building and no one who has been exposed to COVID-19 is aloud to visit,” Woodland remarked.

“The people who we have, as you may know, are a very vulnerable group.”

Other ways the hospice is doing its part to prevent the spread of coronavirus is through working with local libraries to get patients CDs and books, without any physical contact.

While Matthew’s House has 10 residential beds, it also serves 320 individuals with life limiting illnesses in the community and 3,000 others in the South Simcoe Region and beyond.

“We’re attempting at the very least to make sure that the core 320 or so are receiving check-ins and whoever else who calls us, we can try to assist them,” Woodland said.

Going forward, Woodland said Matthews’s House will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and follow the province’s guidance.

“Our message is that we’re here for our community and it’s as easy as a call to us and we will put into action everything that we can to support them,” she noted.


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