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Role of Palliative Care in a COVID-19 Pandemic

How to Keep Aging Loved Ones Safe and Comforted During COVID-19
May 12, 2020
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Role of Palliative Care in a COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has brought a disruption in the whole world. In this time of the pandemic, healthcare systems and professionals have stood up to manage the influx of the affected patients. The coronavirus presents a severe acute care crisis for an unknown duration, in which potentially hundreds of thousands of people may get sick, some critically, and tens of thousands may die.

The elderly population who have underlying chronic or serious health issues are at higher risk from the novel coronavirus. In such a situation, palliative care or senior home care is the need of the hour. Patients, health-care providers, and caregivers can benefit from the palliative care community who help in discernment of patient goals, advance care planning, pain and symptom management, and support for caregivers. And yet, we would argue, palliative care has never been more important.

Let us look at some of the figures related to COVID-19 and how palliative care and home nursing services can be beneficial

  • While WHO reports the average death rates due to COVID-19 are somewhere between 2% and 4%, the death rates among the elderly patients are estimated at 15% to 22%. Managing pain and symptoms, supporting families and healthcare providers, and giving comfort while dying is what palliative care community does every day.
  • Coronavirus’ acute infection may be dangerous for a patient with a serious illness. Rapid reassessment of the patient’s health and goals in alignment with the treatment plans are among palliative care’s stellar skills.
  • An elderly patient with last stage COPD experiencing his fourth or fifth exacerbation may not be prioritized for ICU care and instead will need palliative care. There’s already a short supply of ventilators and ICU beds, hospitals will have to triage cases and suggestion patients and their families for an alternative path, i.e. palliative care.
  • Families may be prohibited from visiting elderly patients who are acutely ill in the hospital and long-term care residents in nursing facilities. An informed and shared decision making may be required to take care of the elderly fam. Taking care of the chronically ill patients and supporting their families, palliative care can help give you a well-managed team of team personal support workers and elderly caregivers.

In this time, palliative care is critically the need of the hour. Palliative care professionals carry strength and kindness that is required in the most troubled times faced by the patients, their families. Their role in the time of COVID-19 is to keep the “care” in healthcare, even as systems, patients, and healthcare providers are under short supply.