When Angela Hospice first opened its Care Center back in 1994, it was designed to be a home away from home, a place where patients and families could feel comfortable and cared for. Ever since then, it has been a point of pride for our organization, a rare resource for our community, where we have eagerly welcomed families and visitors.
But when COVID-19 struck Michigan, and we all learned how to adapt to life during a pandemic, we had to make difficult choices about how to best protect the vulnerable people in our care, their precious families, and our caring healthcare team.
As we began to practice social distancing and limit the number of visitors to the Care Center, how would our patients and their families be affected by these changes? Could we still provide the kind of experience our patients and families deserve?
Cathy Stewart can answer those questions. Her father was in Angela Hospice’s care a few years ago, and now her mom, Mary Bradley, is at the Care Center with congestive heart failure. Now that visits are limited to one family member per patient per day, Cathy has been the person visiting her mom nearly every day.
“I’m blessed I can come in,” Cathy said. And while the visitor restrictions in place now are much different than when her father was a patient a couple years ago, Cathy still feels gratitude.
“I’m a nurse, so I get it. And I feel that we are fortunate that we can be here with Mom, and so many family members with loved ones in hospitals can’t visit.”
Like a lot of families, Mary’s loved ones have gotten creative in their efforts to connect. Cathy said grandchildren, friends, cousins, and other relatives have been coming to the window to visit with Mary. One visitor brought her dog. Another drew pictures with colorful window paint.
|Loved ones painted Mary’s
“My mom has enjoyed seeing everyone and talking to everyone,” Cathy said. “It’s made isolation bearable.”
The indefatigable perseverance of the human spirit, and the determination to connect with one another, have created these stories that Teri Schmitchen, Angela Hospice’s Director of Volunteer Services, called “heartbreaking but also heartwarming.”
“I need to change my point of view,” Teri said, “because I’m used to what we’ve always done here.” But with so many hospitals and nursing homes unable to permit any visitors at this time, facilitating these interactions, even through windows on snowy April afternoons, can be really meaningful.
Teri described seeing family members reading to loved ones through their windows, and explained how another family whose loved one was being transferred from a nursing home planned to line up in the parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved one and yell to them as they were transported out of an ambulance.
We are eager for the days when we can return to providing a warm and welcoming haven for our patients and everyone who wishes to visit to show them love and support. But while these necessary restrictions are in place for the safety of our entire state, changing our perspective can help us to appreciate the blessings around us.
Teri reflected, “Any little thing is special at this time.”
And as for Cathy, she’s making the most of her daily visits with her mom, sometimes staying all day long, she said. “But I know when I leave that she’s in good hands.”