26th June 2020 Patrick Huban chatting to his daughter Simone on a video call.
In-patient palliative care patients have possibly felt the COVID-19 restrictions harder than most but therapists in St Brigid’s Hospice in Kildare have gone out of their way to make sure they remain connected to their families.
While visiting restrictions were a necessity, patients reported missing family and friends and finding it ‘dreadful’ to not be able to stay connected. Staff too were distressed by not being able to support patients and their family in the usual manner, which is central to the holistic nature of palliative care.
Senior Occupational Therapist Dervla Kennedy and Senior Speech and Language Therapist Candice Kelly noted the impact this was having on patients’ health and well-being and set about doing something to make sure that vital social interaction was restarted despite the pandemic.
Tablets were kindly purchased by The Friends of St Brigid’s, and video calls and emails were facilitated between patients and their families and friends.
Feedback from patients, families and staff has been overwhelmingly positive, as described by one of the patients following a video call with his daughter, stating, “Wasn’t that wonderful?!” Another patient explained, “It helped a lot to see the person; you can chat away to them. Seeing my family was great, it helped an awful lot.”
When we interact with our family and friends we don’t just hear their voice - we see their gestures, facial expressions and body language. Video calls have enabled better quality interactions, resulting in an increased sense of connection during a very difficult time.
One patient’s daughter found the visual element of the interaction very useful, saying, “It’s great for him to see us and the kids every day and his sisters in America. It’s reassuring that I can see him and know that he’s doing well.”
Family and friends can also stay in touch through email or by sending on a video message. Staff at the hospice can print off the email or any photographs and deliver them directly to the patient.
As visiting restrictions ease, Dervla and Candice said they will aim to continue to balance providing compassionate person-centred patient and family care with the ongoing risk of COVID-19.
“We will facilitate meaningful social engagement both in person through scheduled planned visits and by virtual means,” they explained.
They also paid tribute to the Friends of St Brigid’s Hospice for funding the purchase of the tablets.