A CLOSER LOOK: Circle of Life hospice care and COVID-19

A Closer Look

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — You’re close to dying and the last interaction, a personal touch, may be a volunteer holding your hand during your final breath.

For clients at Circle of Life, the largest non-profit hospice provider in Northwest Arkansas, that has changed because of the novel coronavirus.

Usually there is a team of employees/volunteers who help make the dying process as peaceful as possible, but Circle of Life CEO Catherine Grubbs explains while that is still the goal — here is what has changed in an effort to keep employees and clients free from catching COVID-19.

Photo(s) by Ninette Sosa

There has not been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the roughly 225 patients Circle of Life is currently caring for within the Northwest Arkansas community. A majority are elderly, and there are some pediatric patients.

Grubbs believes the likelihood of having positive cases in the near future is very high. And it’s for this reason the agency has been proactive over the past few weeks to prepare.

Here are 5 actions:

  • At the beginning of this pandemic, a Circle of Life COVID-19 Task Force, comprised of leaders throughout the organization was formed, to prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients in both inpatient and outpatient locations. This group is focused on patient and family care and safety, staff safety, supply and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) availability, and ensuring they keep up with the significant amount of information received daily from state and national organizations to make certain they are planning and responding appropriately.
  • Beginning about three weeks ago, all staff are screened daily for fever or COVID-19 symptoms prior to providing patient care or upon entry to any inpatient facilities.
  • All staff wears masks and gloves for all patient visits and all new patients are screened for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms. Family members and caregivers in the homes are screened as well.
  • Visitors to the inpatient facilities are all screened for fever or symptoms upon entry and are limited to 2 per patient at a time.
  • Office staff who can work from home are doing so, and technology is used for meetings in place of face to face time.

This is a short, high level list and there are more actions plans underway, according to the nonprofit.

CIRCLE OF LIFE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM

“In order to limit exposure and due to the advanced age of a large number of our volunteers, we have put many aspects of our volunteer program on hold for the time being,” said Grubbs. “They are still making phone calls to patients, sending handwritten notes and doing projects from home, but they are no longer working at the inpatient facilities or making in person visits at this time.”

Here is how they have been helping: sewing masks, delivering meals for staff, and helping to make sure needs are met for teams to do its daily work. Grubbs said the volunteers getting back to a regular routine is something she, and staff, look forward to. “They are vital to our organization and in achieving our mission,” she said.

Dealing with this pandemic has been unique for employees and emotional — and then there is stress. But, Grubbs credits the strong staff. “Our team remains committed to our mission of providing the absolute best in end-of-life care to our community.”

Also, Circle of Life is in contact and constantly monitoring the Centers for Disease Control, the Arkansas Department of Health updates, along with federal and state emergency management organizations.

Her biggest concern is running out of vital resources to keep the staff safe and prevents the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Grubbs said if anyone would like to help, their Facebook page has information about ways to volunteer, for example sewing masks and gowns for staff, “since we already know we will run short on these,” said Grubbs.

COMMON COVID-19 SYMPTOMS

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • dry cough.

Other symptoms include:

  • shortness of breath
  • aches and pains
  • sore throat
  • and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.

People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.

People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.  (Symptoms guideline from the World Health Organization website)

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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